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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Richard Whitcomb Imprisoned For Firearm Offense

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that Richard Whitcomb, 40, of White River Junction, was sentenced in the United States District Court in Rutland today to 37 months in prison after his guilty plea to being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Chief Judge Geoffrey Crawford also ordered that Whitcomb serve three years of supervised release when he completes his prison term.  Whitcomb has been incarcerated since his guilty plea to the charge in September 2019.   

According to court documents, on January 11, 2018, 19-year-old Austin Colson disappeared from the Royalton area of Vermont.  In May 2018, investigators found Colson’s body inside a barn on Beaver Meadow Road in Norwich where Richard Whitcomb had been a caretaker.  Colson’s death has been ruled a homicide caused by gunshot. 

Shortly after Colson’s disappearance, law enforcement learned that Whitcomb had been scheduled to meet with Colson on the morning of January 11 to go looking for scrap metal. This prompted investigators to ask Whitcomb for an interview.  During that interview, Whitcomb said he spoke with Colson on the morning of January 11 and agreed that he was scheduled to meet Colson to go scrapping.  Whitcomb claimed, however, that Colson never showed.   Whitcomb further told investigators that Colson was his drug supplier and that he would obtain drugs from Colson and turn around and sell them.  Whitcomb had also recently given Colson a firearm as collateral to hold in exchange for cocaine.  Whitcomb said he sold the cocaine obtained from Colson and later paid Colson back and retrieved the firearm. Whitcomb is a previously convicted felon. 
  
After the interview, Whitcomb allowed investigators to seize cell phones located at his residence, along with ammunition and the firearm he used as collateral during the drug deal with Colson.  During a search of Whitcomb’s cell phone, investigators learned that text messages and other information on the phone had recently been deleted.  However, investigators found that the last search in the Safari web browser on the phone—a search conducted just days after Colson’s disappearance and hours before Whitcomb was interviewed by detectives—was a search for: “How long does GSR last.”  GSR is a common acronym for “gunshot residue.”

The investigation into the homicide of Austin Colson is still ongoing.

Whitcomb was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and for possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).  Whitcomb pleaded guilty to the felon in possession charge in exchange for his agreement to serve 37 months in prison.  The government dismissed the 924(c) count.
 
This case was investigated by the Vermont State Police and is part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program.  PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Whitcomb is represented by Brad Stetler, Esq.  The prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy L. Fuller.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Component(s): 
Updated January 8, 2020