State releases details about 2019 double murder in Hinsdale

·7 min read

Mar. 19—Nearly two years after a double murder in Hinsdale, state authorities released details about their investigation for the first time Friday, including that police were apparently tipped off to the accused shooter's identity by someone who said he confessed to him the day of the crime.

The newly released details, contained in an affidavit by Hinsdale police, also cast doubt on the Vermont medical examiner's conclusion that alleged shooter Derrick Shippee, 28, died of an accidental overdose. Multiple people told police that Shippee had made statements indicating he planned to intentionally overdose.

Shippee was charged with the April 11, 2019, killings of Neal R. Bolster, 29, and Aaliyah D. Jacobs, 19, at Bolster's home on Plain Road in Hinsdale. On April 12, the same day warrants were issued for his arrest, Shippee was found dead at a family property in Vernon, Vt.

Shippee's death certificate listed an address for him in Westmoreland, though an acquaintance told police he lived in Keene.

Because Shippee died before appearing in court, the affidavit did not become public at the time, and the N.H. Attorney General's Office blocked its release until now, citing an ongoing investigation. The Sentinel filed several motions to unseal the affidavit over the past two years, all of which a judge denied until recently, when the Attorney General's Office said it no longer opposed releasing the document.

Throughout that time, the authorities did not say what they thought the motive was or what evidence had led them to charge Shippee.

The Attorney General's Office announced Friday that it has closed the investigation with no further charges.

The affidavit contains information from only the early hours of the investigation. The Attorney General's Office said it conducted further interviews and took other investigative steps, though declined to speak about them in detail.

Geoffrey W.R. Ward, the chief of the office's criminal bureau, said the state remains confident Shippee was the perpetrator.

"There's fairly significant evidence not only of Mr. Shippee's involvement, but also of what we refer to as and what comes in as evidence of 'consciousness of guilt,' as it relates to his actions and statements following the homicides," Ward said in an interview Friday.

On the afternoon of April 11, a Plain Road resident reported to Hinsdale police that his partner had heard loud bangs early that morning, and that the door and windows of Bolster's home appeared broken, according to the affidavit, written by then-Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner.

Bolster's parole officer had been unable to reach him, Faulkner wrote, and two Hinsdale officers went to the home, where the side door was ajar and a window was broken out.

They found Bolster and Jacobs in bed, shot to death.

That evening, Hinsdale police heard from an area man who said he was supposed to buy marijuana from Shippee the night before and Shippee blew him off, but met with him in Keene the next day.

That man said Shippee told him he "got Neal," but was getting nervous because people were talking about it on social media, according to the affidavit. By this witness' account, Shippee said he cut Bolster's face, shot him and then shot Jacobs. The witness, according to the affidavit, said Bolster had owed Shippee $2,500.

The affidavit doesn't specify what the reported debt was for, though both Shippee and Bolster had previously been charged with involvement in alleged drug sales.

The witness said he and Shippee drove to Shippee's grandparents' junkyard in Vernon. During the drive, he said, Shippee produced hundreds of bags of heroin and said he wasn't going back to jail, Faulkner wrote in the affidavit.

That night, police responded to the junkyard after hearing from family members concerned Shippee was going there to overdose, according to the affidavit.

Shippee's father showed a New Hampshire state trooper a text message that, in Faulkner's words, "indicated that Derrick SHIPPEE was going to overdose and kill himself, and something to the effect that he was being blamed for killing someone." An ex-girlfriend of Shippee's said he called her that evening to say, "I love you, I'll see you on the other side," according to the affidavit.

Shippee's death certificate states that he died of an overdose, with fentanyl and other drugs found in his system. It lists the death as an accident.

In response to questions from The Sentinel Friday, a spokesman for the Vermont Department of Health said Shippee's statements were "new information" and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner "has not received any of these records."

"Overall, determinations of manner and cause of death are based on the autopsy results and information we have available at that time," the spokesman, Bennett Truman, said by email. "They are not, however, set in stone, and can and are amended based on new information."

A confidential informant told police that he saw Shippee buy 9mm ammunition at the Hinsdale Walmart a week or two before the shootings, and police had seized a 9mm handgun, along with various drugs, from Shippee's residence in Brattleboro during a 2017 arrest, according to Faulkner's affidavit. Three shell casings consistent with 9mm rounds were found at Bolster's house, Faulkner wrote.

Faulkner's affidavit states that police were seeking to examine Shippee's cellphone, clothing and person for potential evidence.

Ward on Friday declined to say what if anything the state recovered from those items.

Michelle Cleaves, Jacobs' mother, said she wasn't satisfied with the state's investigation and questioned whether Shippee acted alone.

Ward said he was aware of rumors to that effect. He said that in any murder investigation, detectives will look at whether anyone else aided the perpetrator. In this case, he said the fact that the state closed the investigation without charging anyone else speaks for itself.

Cleaves also blamed law enforcement for failing to intervene in the days before the killings, noting that a court had ordered Bolster to have no contact with Jacobs.

That order stemmed from a 2018 case in which Brattleboro police responded to a report that Bolster had assaulted Jacobs, though she said he had not laid hands on her, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. Bolster was charged with unlawful trespass and disturbing the peace, and was also accused of violating the no-contact order later that year, according to the Reformer.

On April 4, 2019, Adam Belville of the Hinsdale Police Department spoke to Bolster's parole officer, Ryan Conover, about Bolster missing a meeting, according to an email Belville wrote to colleagues.

"I also learned that Neal is NOT supposed to have contact with Aaliyah Jacobs," Belville wrote. "I told Ryan that Aaliyah is more than likely staying with Neal."

Belville added that Conover had said he planned to give Bolster a drug test the next day and possibly arrest him, depending on the results.

In an email exchange five days later, both Conover and Tracy Shriver, the state's attorney for Windham County, Vt., noted that Cleaves had reported her daughter was spending time with Bolster, though Conover said Jacobs herself had denied that. Conover said Bolster was due to meet him the next day, April 10. "I attempted to do a home visit last week, but he was not there," Conover wrote.

Shriver also emailed Faulkner, who said Hinsdale police had seen Jacobs and Bolster together more than once and learned only recently of the no-contact provision. "We are looking at Bolster for a drug sales complaint and would like a little time to make this happen as the information is good and we possibly have someone that can get a buy into him," Faulkner wrote. Faulkner was not immediately reachable for comment Friday afternoon.

"The state of New Hampshire failed to protect my child," Cleaves said.

Cleaves said Jacobs was working as a caregiver for seniors in Brattleboro before her death. She remembered her as an outgoing person who loved her family and friends.

Cleaves said she still looks at her daughter's picture every day.

"I just want her to knock on the door," she said. "I still don't believe it."

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS

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