Police: Missing Man Murdered - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Police: Missing Man Murdered

Barre, Vermont - September 27, 2006

Police affidavits released Wednesday gruesomely detail how a drug dealer named James Saunders was savagely beaten to death and his body disposed of in Vershire 45 minutes from here.

Police say the killers were two drug dealers transplanted to Vermont from North Carolina and their accomplices were three Barre teenagers ages 17, 15, and 14.

"A body was located at the residence buried behind the residence in a shallow grave," said Maj. Tom L'Esperance of the Vermont State Police.

At a press conference police explained that a confidential informant provided the tip that led to the discovery of the badly beaten body of 34-year-old James Saunders of Barre.

He had been missing since May 10 until the tip last Friday led to his body buried behind the former Vershire home of 33-year-old Leodor Kahuna Rousseau and 21-year-old Joshua Darling. Police say they were arrested Monday night in North Carolina. They are being held pending return to Vermont to be charged with kidnapping and murder. Police say they killed him to get revenge for a drug rip-off.

"While looking for Saunders Rousseau asked for the assistance of two juveniles locating him and offered the two juveniles money for their assistance. They recruited a third teenager to assist and locate Saunders. Saunders was located -- entered the Rousseau vehicle under a false pretense of a pending drug transaction with all the parties involved. It is believed that Saunders was severely beaten inside the vehicle which resulted in his death," said Maj. L'Esperance.

The three Barre teens were arrested and brought to court and were charged as adults with accessory to kidnapping.

Police say 17-year-old Melinda Pike was the lure who got Saunders to the car. She pled innocent and was ordered held on bail set at $25,000.

Also denying the kidnapping charge were 14-year-old Shawn Fordham and 15-year-old Nathaniel Masi. They were released in their parents custody on conditions.

Police say all three teens were in the car when Saunders was fatally beaten and at least two of them may have helped.  Nothing in the affidavit indicates that the teens knew that Rousseau and Darling planned to kill Saunders.

Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News

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