VERGENNES — A 34-year-old resident of the John Graham Emergency Homeless Shelter died early Wednesday morning from unknown causes after she tried to rob the nearby Champlain Farms convenience store at knifepoint, Vergennes police said.
Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel identified the woman as Yemalla Sprauve. Merkel in a Wednesday afternoon press release said Sprauve, apparently acting alone, entered the Main Street store sometime shortly after 4 a.m. and “attempted to rob the store clerk” while “wielding a large knife.”
Merkel said the woman, who was wearing an article of clothing on her face, possibly a bandanna, apparently threatened and advanced on the clerk with the knife. According to his press release, “a struggle between the clerk and the woman ensued” in which the clerk disarmed Sprauve and wrestled her to the floor, restraining her there until another customer arrived.
The clerk — who Merkel declined to identify, but said was not injured in the struggle — then asked the customer to call 911. Merkel said that call was relayed to his department at about 4:30 a.m., and soon afterward Vergennes police and the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad arrived on the scene.
Merkel said the woman was not stabbed, but police and VARS personnel found Sprauve “to be unresponsive.” At this point, Merkel said, it is not clear when exactly she became unresponsive, and that issue remains to be determined during the investigation.
VARS took Sprauve to Porter Hospital, and she was pronounced dead en route. Merkel said an autopsy will determine the cause of death, which will be released only after the completion of the coroner’s report and Vergennes police’s investigation.
In an interview, Merkel said police believe the clerk — who was not injured — was defending himself, although police are still trying to piece together all the details.
“Initially, that’s what it appears to be, that he was acting in self-defense,” he said.
Merkel is asking anyone with information related to this incident to call Vergennes police at 877-1152 or 877-2201.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]