Crime and Justice

Brownington man pleads not guilty to murder charge in shooting at Belvidere camp

Michael Chadwick, 61, of Brownington, left, appeared by video for his arraignment on Thursday in Lamoille County Superior criminal court in Hyde Park from the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury. Kirk Williams, his public defender, is seated next to him. Screenshot

A day after a restraining order was granted barring a Brownington man from going to a camp in Belvidere, he was charged with murdering a man – his ex-girlfriend’s son – who had gone to that camp to change the locks to keep him out.

Michael Chadwick, 61, pleaded not guilty Thursday during a hearing in Lamoille County Superior Court criminal division in Hyde Park to a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death Wedneday afternoon of Mark Benjamin, 42, also of Brownington.

Chadwick took part in the hearing by video from the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury. Judge Scot Kline granted a request by Lamoille County Deputy State’s Attorney Aliena Gerhard seeking to hold Chadwick in custody without bail. 

Kirk Williams, a public defender representing Chadwick, did not contest that request. 

A four-page affidavit provides new details of what led up to the fatal shooting. Written by Detective Sgt. Isaac Merriam of the Vermont State Police and filed in support of the felony charge, it was made public Thursday following Chadwick’s arraignment.

According to the affidavit, Benjamin’s mother, Susan Benjamin, 67, also of Brownington, had been in a long-term relationship with Chadwick and had filed for — and received — a final court order for relief from abuse against him on Tuesday.

In seeking the relief from abuse order against Chadwick on Sept. 10, Susan Benjamin wrote in the filing that Chadwick had been physically and verbally abusive toward her for weeks. 

Chadwick had filed a motion later Tuesday asking the judge to reconsider that final order, seeking to remove the Bog Road camp, where the shooting occurred, from the places he wasn’t allowed to go. 

“I have no where to go,” he wrote in the one-paragraph filing, adding, he “will be on the streets. I am also disabled & on disability.” 

Orleans County Superior Family Court Judge Thomas Devine denied that request. 

On Wednesday, the affidavit stated, Susan Benjamin contacted Vermont State Police reporting that Chadwick had violated the order by attempting to contact her by phone. 

Mark Benjamin, her son, traveled to 2190 Bog Road in Belvidere where his mother owns property as well as a camp, the affidavit stated. 

Mark Benjamin’s husband, Richard Watt, told police he knew that Mark Benjamin was going to the property to change the locks and was going to meet him there in a separate vehicle, according to the affidavit. 

Watt told investigators that when he got to the property he saw Chadwick standing outside his Toyota pickup and Mark Benjamin inside a vehicle. Watt said he then drove around the back of the pickup and at that time saw Chandwick shoot a gun through Mark Benjamin’s passenger side window, according to the affidavit. 

Mark Benjamin drove the vehicle he was in to the bottom of the camp’s driveway, got out of that car and jumped into Watt’s vehicle, the affidavit stated. Watt told police that he saw blood coming from Mark Benjamin’s neck and tried to render aid while driving away from the camp, eventually pulling over about two miles away while still on Bog Road.

According to the affidavit, Watt called 911 from Bog Road around 2:10 p.m., reporting that his spouse had been shot. Emergency medical services workers responded, the affidavit stated, and tried to provide care to Mark Benjamin, but he was pronounced dead at that scene at 2:40 p.m. 

Troopers found Chadwick was still at the camp, the affidavit stated, and in speaking to Trooper Giancarlo Digenova by phone, he reported having a .22-caliber handgun with him and added that “he wished he had a bigger gun.” 

After a standoff with police, according to the affidavit, Chadwick surrendered at about 4:35 p.m. and was taken into custody and transported to the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department in Hyde Park.

Chadwick, the affidavit stated, told investigators about the Tuesday hearing where he was ordered not to be on the Bog Road property and reported to them that he had gone there right after the hearing because he had no place else to go. 

According to the charging documents, Chadwick also said he had called Susan Benjamin several times that night and left her voice messages telling her he was at the camp. He also said that “he figured police were going to show up that night and that he had a plan to shoot himself if they showed.”

But that didn’t happen. When Chadwick woke up Wednesday he told police that he visited a friend, Gary Broe of Franklin, and when leaving from seeing that friend told him, “This may be the last time I see you, I’m not leaving the camp,” according to the affidavit.

Chadwick told investigators that when he arrived back at the camp he saw that the door was missing a lock and then saw Mark Benjamin exiting the camp. Within seconds of that, Chadwick told police, “the incident happened,” according to the affidavit.

Chadwick said he fired two rounds from his .22-caliber handgun, charging documents stated.

“During the interview, Michael was asked if he knew Mark had been shot,” the affidavit stated. “Michael stated that he believed he hit Mark because when he surrendered to the police, he noticed blood in Mark’s vehicle.”

Adam Silverman, a state police spokesperson, stated in an email Thursday in response to questions from VTDigger that at 12:51 p.m. Wednesday state police dispatch received a call from Susan Benjamin reporting that Chadwick had violated the court order.

A trooper called her back three minutes later, Silverman added, “and made arrangements to see her in person and gather more information. However, the shooting occurred just over an hour later, before the trooper and Ms. Benjamin had a chance to meet.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Judge Scot Kline's name.

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