Suspected shooter in St. Jay murder appears in court

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 11:47 AM EST
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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - The man police say pulled the trigger in a St. Johnsbury murder last month appeared before a judge Thursday morning.

Rafael Rodriguez, 34, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted assault and robbery, and burglary charges. Court paperwork says Rodriguez and three other suspects planned to rob and steal drugs from Israel Jimenez Lugo, 49, at his St. Johnsbury apartment between December 13th and 14th. Police say the group went to the apartment, and in the process of carrying out the robbery, Rodriguez shot and killed Jimenez Lugo.

Caledonia County State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski says the alleged plan was fueled by addiction and speaks to a larger issue facing the state. “While addiction is what it is, what we’re seeing in the last 18 months to 2 years is an incredible uptick in violence in conjunction with narcotics trafficking and narcotics use,” she said.

Rodriguez was held without bail. Brittany Clark, 33, also plead not guilty Thursday and was held on $50,000 bail.

Michael Ringuette, 55, of St, Johnsbury and Natasha Cady, 29, of Barton pleaded not guilty Wednesday to aiding in the commission of first-degree murder and assault and robbery charges.

Suspects arrested in St. Johnsbury homicide
Suspects arrested in St. Johnsbury homicide(Courtesy: Vermont State Police)
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