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Suspect in Vermont school shooting rampage pleads not guilty, mental evaluation ordered

Saturday, August 26, 2006

ESSEX, Vt. -- A man accused of killing two people and wounding two others in a shooting rampage that began at his ex-girlfriend's home and continued at an elementary school pleaded not guilty Friday, while a prosecutor said the suspect confessed to the crimes.

Christopher A. Williams, 27, was ordered held without bail. He shot himself twice in the head after the rampage Thursday and appeared in court confined to a wheelchair, arms strapped to his sides and feet shackled.

Williams was charged with two counts each of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He was released from a hospital Friday and transferred to jail. He appeared listless in court, slumping in his chair and showing no emotion.

Mental health counselor Joan Tracy told Cashman that Williams had said he wanted to drown himself in a toilet after being arrested Thursday. He was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

According to Tracy, Williams was exposed to domestic violence early in life and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result.

Acting Chittenden County State's Attorney Margaret Vincent told Judge Edward Cashman that Williams confessed to the shootings, which started after a fight with ex-girlfriend Andrea Lambesis.

Intent on killing her, he went looking for Lambesis at the home he shared with her and her mother, Linda Lambesis, 57, police said.

Williams shot the elder woman to death, then went to Essex Elementary School in search of her daughter, police said. Though the school was still in summer recess, about 39 staffers were working -- including the younger Lambesis, a teacher. It wasn't clear where she was in the building, but Williams didn't find her.

He fatally shot second-grade teacher Mary Alicia Shanks, 56, in her classroom and wounded school staffer Mary Snedeker, 52, Vincent said.

Snedeker, who was shot through a window, remained hospitalized Friday at Fletcher Allen Health Care hospital, where she was in fair condition, spokesman Mike Noble said.

According to a police affidavit released Friday, Williams got the .45-caliber pistol used in the shootings from a friend, Chad Johansen.

Williams returned to Johansen's condominium after the shootings and the two argued before Williams shot his friend in the hand and forehead, according to an affidavit by police detective Lt. Bradley LaRose. Johansen was in fair condition at a hospital on Friday.

Williams, who works at a bakery, is charged in Springfield, Mass., with violating a restraining order filed by an ex-girlfriend. The woman obtained the order after telling police he had threatened to kill her and her stepmother.

Williams also was sentenced to two years in prison in 2000 after being convicted of selling drugs in a school zone in Springfield, according to court records.

In Essex, a bedroom suburb of Burlington, the first day of school -- scheduled for next week -- was postponed until Sept. 5 because of the shootings.

Residents on Friday left bouquets with notes attached outside the fence at Essex Elementary.

"You want to use the old cliche that it doesn't happen here, but it happens here," said Robert Little, 63, who lives nearby. "It's just a sad thing. I don't know what words to use."


Associated Press writers Adam Gorlick in Springfield, Mass., and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this story.


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