ST. ALBANS — One of two men alleged to have been involved in the drug-related death of a 23-year-old Highgate woman pleaded not guilty in Franklin County District Court on Friday.
Facing four felony charges, Joshua Decker, 24, of Fairfax, entered the plea to charges of selling a regulated drug with death resulting and to three counts of heroin sales in both Fairfax and Georgia.
Decker and Randy Bard, 22, of Fairfield, were arrested Thursday after a joint agency investigation determined that drugs the two men sold had led to the June 30 death of Renee Boucher, 23, of Highgate.
Court records show that Decker had been under police surveillance for alleged heroin sales more than a month prior to Boucher’s death.
If convicted, Decker faces a minimum of two years and up to 20 years in prison for the regulated drug sale with death resulting, and up to five years for each count of heroin sale. He could also be fined up to $100,000 for each count of heroin sale.
Judge Martin A. Maley set bail at $10,000 cash and set stringent conditions as requested by Franklin County State’s Attorney James Hughes, including limiting contact between Decker and Bard, keeping Decker from leaving Franklin County and placing him under the supervision of a “responsible adult” if the bail is met.
Bard is scheduled for arraignment on Tuesday, Sept. 3. He is already incarcerated on an unrelated charge and, according to court documents, has a lengthy criminal history.
The investigation into Boucher’s death began on June 30, when Vermont State Police officers received a notice about a deceased female at a Pion Road residence owned by members of Bard’s family in Fairfield. According to the police affidavit, Bard found Boucher’s body in a tow-behind camper located in a barn on the property.
Officers learned that Bard and Boucher had traveled to the Burlington and Winooski area with Decker the previous night to buy heroin. After picking up Decker at his Fairfax residence, the three drove to Winooski near the Riverside Community Action Building, said police. According to the police affidavit, Bard gave Decker $90 from Boucher’s purse and Decker left for about 15 minutes, returning with three bags of heroin.
According to police, Bard didn’t know who sold Decker the heroin, but Bard heard the name Paul mentioned.
After dropping Decker in Fairfax, Bard and Boucher returned to the Pion Road residence and continued to use the illicit substance, police allege.
Bard told officers that he and Boucher had purchased and used heroin the night before and when he awoke the next day, he found Boucher unresponsive. According to police documents, a medical examiner confirmed that Boucher had died of “acute heroin intoxication.”
Upon arrival, officers found a “false bottom” chair in the camper, which contained hypodermic needles, spoons and small plastic bags with a powdery residue in plain site.
A search warrant executed on Bard’s cell phone confirmed that Decker was texted about purchasing heroin.
An additional 11-page affidavit from the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force highlighted Decker’s alleged involvement in drug deals, primarily involving heroin.
On May 20, with the help of an informant, known as a cooperating individual, or CI, detectives began a lengthy investigation into Decker’s alleged drug dealings in Georgia, Fairfax and Burlington. The CI reportedly spoke with police on both May 20 and July 16 regarding his or her communications with Decker and his subsequent dealings with his source in the Burlington and Winooski area.
During the investigations, Judge Martin Maley — who presided over Friday’s arraignment — signed a wire warrant so text message correspondences between the CI and Decker could be recorded.
While dealing with Decker in Fairfax on July 16, the CI was wired with an audio transmitting device having a built in digital recorder, according to the affidavit.
Decker was represented in court Friday by attorney Michael Ledden. Local court records show no previous convictions for Decker.
Boucher was the daughter of Denis and Deborah Boucher, of Highgate, and a 2008 graduate of Missisquoi Valley Union High School.
According to her obituary, in recent years she had worked at least two jobs simultaneously while continuing her education at Wagner College on Staten Island, Champlain College, Johnson State College and Community College of Vermont.