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: Harrness In Jail On Probation Violation By Leon Thompson  ( 2047 )
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« : August 05, 2005, 11:12:10 AM »

Published In The St. Albans Messenger - Thursday August 4, 2005

Harrness in jail on probation violation

Messenger Staff Writer

ST. ALBANS CITY –– A Sheldon man who is scheduled to go on trial for arson in September is behind bars after he allegedly violated probation by using drugs.

Dennis Harrness, whose property also was searched by police in regard to a recent Sheldon murder, allegedly tested positive for cocaine after a probation-mandated drug test and on Tuesday was cited to appear in court.

During a subsequent hearing Wednesday, Judge Mark Keller ordered that Harrness, 36, be held without bail, pending a violation of probation merits hearing later this month.

Court records show Harrness tested positive for cocaine after providing a urine sample to police on July 29, when his probation officer, Mark Geno, asked him to submit to the drug test.

Geno received the results on Aug. 2, and they verified that Harrness had been using cocaine, the officer said in his affidavit.

Harrness was found guilty in January of counseling his now ex-wife, Jennifer Miller, to burn their mobile home in 2001. In April, he received a two-to-five-year suspended sentence, with probation. Miller, as the state’s witness, was granted immunity.

Harrness’ conditions prohibit him from possessing or using regulated drugs, unless prescribed by a doctor, and he is subject to random drug tests.

If Keller finds that Harrness did violate his probation, he could be sentenced to the full two to five years.

“I will ask the judge to revoke Dennis Harness’ probation and make him serve his underlying sentence,” said John Lavoie, deputy state’s attorney.

Harrness also awaits trial for allegedly setting fire to his brother Thomas’ home in 1999. Harrness was to face a jury in St. Albans City this month. On July 26, however, a judge moved the trial to St. Johnsbury, because the Harrnesses have been mentioned in media coverage of the July 7 shooting of Kenny Jerome, 33. The lack of an August jury draw at Vermont District Court in Caledonia County delayed the trial until September.

Jerome, also of Sheldon, was driving a tractor and feeding cattle on Diamond Hill Custom Heifers Farm, owned by Terry and Joanne Magnan, when he was shot in the chest from a rock ledge that abuts the farm. Police have not made any arrests or named any suspects.

As he was taken from court on Wednesday, Dennis Harrness denied he was involved in the killing and told reporters, “I can't say anything that will change your mind.”

Meanwhile, the Magnans have established a reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Jerome’s killer. The farm family started the fund with $2,500 of their own money. Another $1,000 came through an anonymous donation.

The Magnans plan to raise more money through sale of $2 bumper stickers that will be available in Franklin County stores. The black and white stickers say “Justice for Kenny.” Joanne Magnan ordered 100 of them.

“I will be ordering more, I’m sure,” she said this morning.

Also, the Magnans have offered their 4 acres of sweet corn to the public for unlimited picking, providing visitors drop money in a donation box at the field to help pad the reward fund.

“It’s ready to start picking now,” Joanne said.

Anyone who wants to contribute to the fund should contact Dale Fisher at the Peoples Trust Company in St. Albans at (802) 524-2196.

The Magnans are still shocked by Jerome’s murder.

“It’s going to take a long time to heal,” Terry said. “Any justice we can get will help resolve some of it.”

Dennis Harrness’ parents, Stephen and Shirley, own the land that includes the ledge from which Jerome was killed. Last year, Thomas Harrness faced charges for allegedly threatening Miller, his brother’s ex-wife, and Jerome, who had a child together last November.

Unsealed portions of search warrants related to Jerome’s murder outline a feud-filled history of tension and threats between Jerome and the Harrnesses, who live on East Sheldon Road.

According to court records, at Dennis Harrness’ April court sentencing, Stephen Harrness threatened Jerome by making a gun with his finger, pointing it at Jerome and calling him “Pretty Boy.”

In September 2002, Miller complained to police that someone from the Harrness family planted drugs and money in Jerome’s car, according to court documents.

Henry Raymond
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