Burlington armed robbery suspect appears in court

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 12:01 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Burlington armed robbery suspect who eluded authorities for over a week appeared in court Friday morning, a day after he was captured in Franklin County. Fifty-two-year-old Eric Edson appeared virtually from jail for the hearing, telling his wife he loved her. With 65 criminal convictions on his record, he has spent much of his adult life behind bars. and the judge decided, that’s where he’ll stay, for now.

Eric Edson pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges including assault and robbery with a weapon, grand larceny, eluding law enforcement – negligent operation.

“I’m not guilty of armed robbery. I’m just going to let everyone know that right now. I’m not a violent person and I didn’t mean to. I didn’t do any of that,” Edson said.

Edson’s initial run from Burlington Police included the use of a car, a stolen bicycle, a paddleboard, and a sailboat. This week, the chase extended into Lamoille and Franklin Counties where he stole a John Deere tractor and a dump truck. Vermont State Police finally captured him in the town of Georgia after they say he tried to escape in a stolen kayak.

Dina Wells Edson, Edson’s wife, says he isn’t a dangerous person. “He’s a good man, he just has some issues like we all do, you know. People want to throw stones -- keep throwing them because I’m building an empire and eventually we’ll get there,” she said.

According to court paperwork, Edson’s record shows 41 felony and 24 misdemeanor convictions. It also shows 36 charges while Edson has been on parole. The newest charges happened while he was out on furlough as part of a seven-year-to-life sentence from a prior case. WCAX first interviewed Edson behind bars 25 years ago and he has been in and out of prison ever since.

“With the people with lower-end offenses, when you incarcerate them, it’s not going to be for a very long period of time. And when they get out, their recidivism rates skyrocket. So, jail does not actually seem to act statistically as a deterrent,” said Vermont Defender General Matthew Valerio. He says when it comes to repeat offenders, Edson is an outlier and that the state should take a holistic approach. “We can’t be focusing policy based on the actions of any particular individual. We have to focus it on the vast majority of people that come into contact with the criminal justice system.”

Judge Kevin Griffin did order Edson to be held without bail, on top of the hold order from the Department of Corrections stemming from the furlough violation. The court will now schedule Edson’s case for a weight of evidence hearing to determine if he’ll remain jailed until trial. It’s unclear when that hearing will be.

Edson was captured Thursday on the Lamoille River in the town of Georgia after a weeklong manhunt that led police through Chittenden, Lamoille, and Franklin Counties.

Edson is well known to authorities with more than 40 felony convictions on his record and criminal activity dating as far back as 1987.

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