Arrests made in 2007 safe heist at Cottle's
Two years ago on the night of June 2 thieves broke into the office of the family owned E.C. Cottle lumberyard on Lambert's Cove Road in West Tisbury and removed a safe said to contain more than $10,000.
After two years of sleepless nights, Kristen K. Brown, 22, of Chilmark decided she could no longer bear the guilt for her role in the theft of a safe from her employer. On Saturday, Ms. Brown met with police and provided information that led to four other suspects in the burglary that shocked the up-Island community.
Police arrested Kevin J. Rocheteau, 27, of South Yarmouth, Shawn Ramatour, 33, of Vineyard Haven, Patrece Peterson, 35, of Vineyard Haven, and Raymond J. Edwards, 38, of Hyannis.
Three of the four men charged in the theft and Ms. Brown were arraigned this week in Edgartown District Court on five felony charges of breaking and entering in the nighttime, breaking into a depository, larceny over $250, receiving stolen property and conspiracy.
The court entered not guilty pleas for each suspect.
Police reports describe Mr. Rocheteau as the person who initiated and planned the theft. Mr. Rocheteau remains incarcerated at the Dukes County Jail with bail set at $10,000 awaiting his next court appearance, scheduled for today.
Mr. Ramatour, who played a role in the aftermath of the break-in, was released on $200 bail following his arraignment Tuesday.
Patrece Peterson, 35, of Vineyard Haven, who also played no direct role in the break-in, remains in the Dukes County Jail, with bail set at $5,000.
According to court officials, Mr. Peterson caused a disturbance in the courtroom Monday by banging his head against a wall. Observers also said he verbally threatened Ms. Brown, who was seated in the courtroom.
Ms. Brown was released on personal recognizance after her arraignment Monday.
Mr. Edwards was in custody in Barnstable County yesterday. After an appearance on a different case in Barnstable District Court, he was released on personal recognizance. He is scheduled for arraignment on the same charges as the other four defendants today in Edgartown District Court.
According to the police report, Ms. Brown asked Chilmark police chief Brian Cioffi to meet her at a private residence in West Tisbury on Saturday. After that meeting, Chief Cioffi called Sgt. Matt Mincone of the West Tisbury police department, and advised him Ms. Brown had revealed the location of the safe stolen from the lumberyard in June of 2007.
She led police to a location off Oyster Watcha Road in Edgartown. "As we drove down approximately 2 miles Ms. Brown asked me to slow down," wrote Sgt. Mincone in his report. "She then recognized a driveway, and said to go down there ... She then identified the area where the safe was dumped in 2007, after a quick search we found the safe." Police recovered the safe as evidence.
Ms. Brown was then taken back to the West Tisbury police station for further questioning. There she gave police a written statement detailing the crime. According to the police report, on June 2, 2007, she said she left an office window unlocked. "She had a prior agreement with Kevin Rocheteau that she only needed to open the window and he would take care of the rest," Sgt. Mincone wrote in the report. "A few weeks prior Mr. Rocheteau started asking questions about the safe that was in 'clear' sight in the office. Mr. Rocheteau would come and visit Kristen at work often. He asked her how much money was in the safe and exactly what were the contents. She told him paperwork, bills, some miscellaneous stuff, and money. She said she didn't know exactly how much cash was in there. She wrote that it didn't seem to matter to him because he was aware that there were no cameras or security, and that it would be real easy. His plan was to go in and use the tools off the wall to get into the safe." But the plan didn't work, according to the police report. Mr. Rocheteau couldn't crack the safe, and was making too much noise trying. So, according to the report, he loaded the safe into a van owned by Mr. Ramatour, and transported it to Mr. Ramoutar's family home on Skiff's Lane in West Tisbury. There, according to Ms. Brown's statement, Mr. Rocheteau and his uncle, Mr. Edwards, finally succeeded in cracking the safe sometime that evening. Ms. Brown said she was given $1,000 for her part in the crime.
Angry but willing
According to the police report, Ms. Brown said Mr. Ramoutar and Mr. Peterson woke up the next day and were angry about the theft.
"The next morning they all woke up and couldn't really hide what had happened and were 'pissed.' Shawn told Kevin that he needed to get the safe off his property immediately."
With Ms. Brown leading the way because of her familiarity with the Island, all five of the suspects then got into Mr. Ramatour's vehicle, and dumped the safe in the woods off Oyster Watcha Road.
At the interrogation Saturday, Ms. Brown told West Tisbury and Chilmark police why she decided to turn herself in, more than two years after the crime. "Ms. Brown said she just hasn't slept thinking about what she did [and] wanted to take responsibility for her part in the incident and try to move on," the report said. Following the questioning, she was placed under arrest. Police immediately processed arrest warrants for the other suspects.
Janet Johnson, clerk of E.C. Cottle, Inc, and daughter of owner Edmund Cottle, was later called to identify the safe. She had no doubt. "It was all rusty and the front door was off," Ms. Johnson said in a phone conversation with the Times yesterday. "But we had drawers on the left hand side that pulled out. They were no longer there, but you could tell."
Soon after the theft occurred, Ms. Brown was among the employees of E.C. Cottle, Inc., police questioned. "She worked for us for quite a while after that, which made it even worse to find out," Ms. Johnson told The Times.
According to Ms. Johnson, Ms. Brown was viewed with suspicion from the start by investigators. She said Ms. Brown refused to take a lie detector test, and refused to let police into her home when they tried to question her further.
"We're very happy that it's been solved," Ms. Johnson said. "Hopefully we'll get some restitution." She has been advised by police to document the contents of the safe, and have that information ready for future court hearings. She said there were four days worth of lumberyard sales in the safe when it was stolen. While she is still assembling records to determine the exact amount, she said it was much more than $10,000.
West Tisbury police led the investigation, and thanked Chilmark Police, State Police, and Yarmouth Police for their help in the investigation and arrests. "Everybody worked together," said West Tisbury police Sergeant Dan Rossi. "We had our ideas what it could be, but you need probable cause. We never let it go."
Contacted by The Times yesterday Ms. Brown declined comment.