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Man arraigned in woman’s murder; faces drug, gun charges

June 3, 2022 GMT

BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont man pleaded not guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the 2019 death of a woman whose remains were found in a gravel pit in Searsburg.

Deven Moffitt, 32, of Bennington, was also charged Friday with drug and gun felonies, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He was arraigned on the murder charge and entered his plea through his attorney, the Bennington Banner reported.

Moffitt was taken into custody Wednesday in the death of Jessica Hildenbrandt, 43, of Ballston Spa, New York, police said. Detectives determined that Hildenbrandt and Moffitt had been in a relationship while Moffitt was incarcerated in Vermont on a previous conviction, police said.

In March 2019, Hildenbrandt reported to the Windsor County state’s attorney’s office and later to state police that she feared for her life if Moffitt were to be released from prison, police said. She ultimately stopped cooperating with the investigation, and law enforcement was unable to pursue the matter further, police said.

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In Sept. 17, 2019, a man reported finding what appeared to be a human jawbone at a gravel pit in Searsburg, police said. Police eventually found more remains at the site and last July the remains were identified through DNA analysis and her death was ruled a homicide.

As Moffitt was fleeing police who were trying to arrest him Wednesday, a witness saw him place a bag in a trash container, the U.S. attorney’s office said. The bag contained more than 3,000 bags of suspected fentanyl, and distribution quantities of powder and crack cocaine as well as two loaded handguns, prosecutors said. When police caught Moffitt he had more than $16,000 in cash, prosecutors said.

On Friday, Moffitt was charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances; possession of a firearm having previously been convicted of a crime punishable by a prison term of more than a year; and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

A phone message was left with his state public defender. It was not immediately known if he’s being represented by a federal public defender on the federal drug and firearms charges.