The door to room 118 at the Liberty Inn and Suites is gone-- busted by police during an early morning drug raid. They say tenant Julie Herron, 41, was selling heroin out her room. She was living there with her husband, Dwayne Herron, 56.
"My understanding is that they were there for an extended period of time and they don't have another residence to call home," Burlington Police Det. Thomas Nash said.
Police say the Herrons were recently evicted from their Burlington home and got state vouchers to stay at this South Burlington motel free. Inside, police found heroin, crack cocaine and two young children sleeping on the floor next to uncapped needles.
"There's concern being that the children were there," Nash said. "There was no indication whatsoever that the children were being hurt or abused."
The children were taken into state custody. Police say the Herrons are not their parents, but they were allowed to have contact with them. The couple was arrested and charged with possession and sale of drugs. Crimes they both denied in court.
But police say when Julie Herron got out of the cruiser, they found 13 bags of heroin in the backseat. And according to court paperwork, police got a search warrant to toss the Herrons' room after a confidential informant working with police made multiple undercover drug buys.
"Our obvious concern is that there are drugs being filtered through those hotels or motels," Nash said.
Off camera, hotel employees said the majority of these rooms are rented to folks like the Herrons on the state's hotel voucher program. The owners were out of town and unavailable for comment.
"As far as an owner or a manager concerned, it's kind of tough to determine who might be selling drugs, who might be doing drugs in the room," Nash said.
Julie Herron has two additional cases pending for drug sales. She was out on conditions of release. Friday, the judge set her bail at $10,000. Her husband is being held for lack of $5,000 bail.
DCF commissioner David Yacavone said last year the homeless hotel voucher program served 1,952 people. It has been criticized by some for being prohibitively expensive and heavily abused. Homeless who qualify can stay up to 28 days at a participating hotel. Yacavone says the state tries to keep track of those who abuse the program, but says it's tough when motel owners and police don't report incidents. He did say that criminal activity and destroying the rooms would be grounds for dismissal from the program. But it's still unclear how much that is really enforced.
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