Probe into death awaiting final test

VERGENNES — Although Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel said earlier this month he hoped to be able to complete by late last week a report on the death of a Vergennes resident during a Sept. 28 armed robbery, he confirmed on Thursday that the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office will not complete its part of the work until mid-November.

Yemalla Sprauve, 34, died of undetermined causes after allegedly assaulting a male clerk at the Champlain Farms convenience store shortly after 4 a.m. on the 28th. Merkel describes the incident as an attempted armed robbery on Sprauve’s part.

Merkel said on Thursday that it would be several weeks before results from a toxicology test administered to Sprauve by the medical examiner’s office would be processed.

Until those results are available, he said, the probe into the circumstances of Sprauve’s death remains incomplete, and Merkel will not comment on ongoing investigations.

“It’s an incomplete investigation until everything is done,” Merkel said.

That report could also be a critical component, he said, in an investigation that has included review of store video of the incident and interviews of the clerk involved in the case, customers who came on the scene, and responders from the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad.

Merkel has declined to identify the clerk, who he said was not injured in the incident. He also said Sprauve was not wounded by the knife in the altercation in the Main Street convenience store.

Police said Sprauve, who had been living in downtown Vergennes, entered the store carrying a large knife while wearing a bandanna over her face.

Merkel said the woman allegedly threatened and advanced on the clerk with the knife. According to his earlier 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.

That customer called police, who in turn called the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad because Sprauve was unresponsive. She was pronounced dead on the way to Porter Hospital, and an autopsy was ordered.

Merkel said the autopsy may be complete, but the toxicology report typically takes four to six weeks.

Even then, Merkel said further delays in the report’s release are possible as the Addison County state’s attorney’s office and possibly even the Vermont Attorney General’s office review the Vergennes Police Department’s conclusions.

“There are other steps other than what the Vergennes Police Department and the Office of the Medical Examiner are doing,” Merkel said.

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.


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Addison County Independent