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Five arrested in Vermont


Five arrested in drug raids.


BELLOWS FALLS,Vermont -- Following a lengthy investigation into a cocaine and crack distribution ring, local and state police arrested five people Thursday and charged them with numerous felony drug counts. According to police, further arrests are anticipated.
Members of the Bellows Falls, Ludlow and Hartford,Vermont police departments and the Vermont State Police assisted the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force in carrying out the drug busts in Bellows Falls and White River Junction.

Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. John Merrigan, a supervisor of the task force, said approximately four ounces of crack cocaine and two ounces of powder cocaine were confiscated in White River Junction. In Bellows Falls, police found approximately three ounces of crack cocaine. Merrigan said the drugs have a street value of approximately $25,000.

Merrigan said more than 20 law enforcement personnel were involved in the investigation that lasted almost a year.

"There was really good cooperation between local agencies, that were in the know on local targets, and the task force," said Merrigan.

Damir Baial Islam, 40, of Manchester, Conn., was charged with three counts of selling cocaine and one count of possession. Islam faces up to 40 years in jail for the charges. On Friday, Islam pleaded not guilty in Windsor District Court and is being held on a $250,000 bond.

Bryan Severance, 30, of White River Junction, was charged with three counts of selling cocaine and one count of aiding in the commission of a felony. He could get up to 35 years in jail for the offenses. Severance pleaded not guilty on Friday and was released and ordered to appear in Windsor District Court,Vermont at a later date.

Shellisa Jones, 28, of White River Junction, was charged with one count of selling cocaine and one count of aiding in the commission of a felony. She faces up to 15 years in jail. Jones pleaded not guilty on Friday and was released and ordered to appear in Windsor District Court at a later date.

Laryssa Cox, 21, of Bellows Falls,Vermont was charged with four counts of selling cocaine, one count of possession of cocaine, one count of selling heroin and multiple probation violations. She faces up to 25 years in jail. On Friday, Cox pleaded not guilty in Windham District Court,Vermont and is being held on $10,000 bail.

James Morse, 40, of Weathersfield,Vermont was charged with one count of possession of cocaine and one count of aiding in the commission of a felony. He faces up to 15 years in jail. He pleaded not guilty on Friday and was released and ordered to appear in Windsor District Court at a later date.

Bellows Falls,Vermont Police Chief Keith Clark said a Bellows Falls officer was dispatched to White River Junction to assist in gathering information for the arrests there. In Bellows Falls, he said his department became aware of Cox's involvement about a month ago.

Clark said even though illegal drug use in Bellows Falls,Vermont is not as bad as it has been in years past, it's still a problem in his town.

"We have people who not only use, but also sell," said Clark. "For many, it's an economic issue. If you can go down to Springfield (Mass.) and buy a bindle for $7 or $8 and sell it for $25 ... is it worth the risk? They look at it as a way of making money very easily."

Clark said that, for many of the people involved in the drug trade, selling drugs is a way of supporting their habit.

"My officers do a very good job of gathering information and talking with people," said Clark.

Clark said he understands that many residents of Bellows Falls,Vermont may be frustrated by what they perceive to be the slow pace of a drug investigation. But he said it's necessary because it takes a long time to gather enough information to present to a judge to obtain a search warrant.

Clark also encouraged Vermont residents to talk with his officers about suspected drug use or sale in their Vermont neighborhood.

"The information they provide might seem insignificant to them, but it all adds up," said Clark.