Courts & Corrections

Crimes victims speak out, share hardships and challenges

From left, Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy, Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen, Avaloy Lanning, executive director of the Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter, and Chris Fenno, executive director of the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, take part in a “listening” forum Tuesday night in Rutland. Photo by Alan J. Keyes/VTDigger

RUTLAND – They talked of feeling guilty for coming forward, not getting justice and the impacts of what happened to them that they live with every day.

Several victims of crime spoke out Tuesday night, telling their personal stories, often through tears, at a “listening” forum in Rutland hosted by the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services.

“This is really our attempt to listen to victims and survivors,” said Chris Fenno, the crime victim center’s executive director. “We are, at the center, undergoing some transformative planning and we really want input.”

The center, she told a crowd of about 50 people, helps provide direct services to victims, collect restitution, provide training and administer grants.

“Our mission is really to seek justice,” Fenno added.

The event in Rutland was the second of eight “listening” forums the crime victim center is hosting around the state. The first one took place last week in Burlington.

Several of the victims who spoke at the forum in Rutland said after the event said they did not want to disclose their names in the press.

One woman talked of a crash that killed her husband and her frustration that something wasn’t done sooner to take the driver charged in the death off the road, given his lengthy criminal record and people repeatedly calling police to report he was driving without a license.

Another victim of domestic violence spoke of how difficult it’s been dealing with the loss of friends and family members who supported the man convicted in the case.

And one woman told how she has been stalked by someone in her town, and now she sleeps with a gun by her bed.

Lenny Montuori of Big Lenny’s Hot Dogs in Rutland spoke Tuesday night at a “listening” forum in Rutland on the impact a crime has had on his life. He is holding a photo of his Rutland home that was severely damaged when a driver slammed into it at more than 70 mph. Photo by Alan J. Keyes/VTDigger.

Lenny Montuori, who owns and operates the food truck, “Big Lenny’s Hot Dogs” in Rutland, was the first to speak. He agreed to the use of his name, and spoke openly about the crime that he says forever changed his life.

He recalled the night in January 2013 when he was in his home office and a vehicle traveling more than 70 mph careened into his house, knocking off the front of his residence and leaving him in a pile of rubble.

“I felt like I was paralyzed,” Montuori said. “I didn’t know if I could move.”

The driver fled the scene, and was arrested three days later.

More than $100,000 in damage was done to his home, Montuori said, but he had insurance that covered it. However, he said, insurance did not cover the several months he was out of his home while it was getting repaired.

He couldn’t work during that time, he added, because he no longer had access to the commercial kitchen that had been in his house.

The driver, Montuori said, had no insurance and is paying restitution of $50 a month. But with thousands lost in income, he said, he questioned whether he’ll ever see the day when he has recouped what he lost.

“I’ll be long dead and buried before I get paid back,” Montuori said.

But more than monetary loses, he talked of the psychological impacts that he deals with every day. He said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and has tried many treatments to try to alleviate it, so far with little success.

And he has to deal with steep medical bills, too.

Sudden loud noises, Montuori said, can leave him collapsed on the floor. And he said he now needs someone else to drive him around.

“This isn’t me, I don’t want this,” he said. “I love what I do. I love people who come to the cart. What can I do?”

He said people seem him all day in the hot dog truck and remark on his fun-loving and easygoing nature. But back home, he said, he’s a different person.

“When I’m in my cart, I”m in my zone, my little world,” Montuori said. “Then I come home and when I’m walking I’ll bump into things. I’ll trip over things.”

He said someone suggested to him that he go on disability.

“I don’t want to go on disability. I’m a young 68 years old,” Montuori said. “I want to go on. I love everything, but it’s just so hard.”

In the front of the room where Montuori spoke, several people who work with crime victims every day served as a “listening” panel.

They included Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy, Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen and Avaloy Lanning, executive director of the Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter.

Lanning said after the forum that she heard the “real pain” and “long-lasting impact” of crime on victims.

“I think that what everybody here who was a victim of crime said when they stood up is the experience of many victims of crime,” Lanning said. “Whether it’s having your house burglarized, or being the victim of domestic violence, it stays with you.”

Kennedy, the county’s top prosecutor, said after the forum that she wished crime victims didn’t feel as alone as they sometimes do.

She added in court often the family and friends of a person charged with a crime are there.

“It would great if people came to court to support victims, too,” the prosecutor said.

Other “listening” forums from 6 to 8 p.m. are at the following dates and locations:

-Wednesday, Sept. 27, Aldrich Public Library, Barre.
-Tuesday, Oct. 3, Hartford Town Municipal Building.
-Tuesday, Oct. 10, St. Albans Town Education Center.
-Wednesday, Oct. 18, Bennington Free Library.
-Wednesday, Oct. 25, Community College of Vermont, Newport.
-Wednesday, Nov. 1, Green Mountain Technical and Career Center, Hyde Park.

People can also participate by sending comments to [email protected]

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Alan J. Keays

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