Melissa Robitille is pictured during her arraignment at the Caledonia County Court in St. Johnsbury, Vt., on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Robitille is on trial for manslaughter in the August 2014 death of her disabled son, who was fed vodka through his feeding tube.
Walter Richters is pictured during his arraignment at the Caledonia County Court in St. Johnsbury, Vt., on Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014. Richters is serving three years in prison for manslaughter in the August 2014 death of his former girlfriend's disabled son, who was fed vodka through his feeding tube.
Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt.
A Vermont woman is standing trial this week in the death of her disabled 13-year-old son, who authorities said died after vodka was poured into his feeding tube to keep him quiet.
Melissa Robitille, 41, of Hardwick, is charged with manslaughter in Issac Robitille’s 2014 death. The boy, who was blind, had no ears and had a cleft palate and developmental delays, died of alcohol poisoning.
Robitille took the stand Wednesday and testified that it was her live-in boyfriend, Walter Richters, who fed the alcohol to the boy the night of Aug. 21, 2014, according to WPTZ in Burlington. Issac was reliant on IV drips and a feeding tube to survive.
She testified that Richters gave Issac vodka to calm him down after a tantrum. She admitted that she knew about the alcohol and said she didn’t think it would harm her son.
The news station reported that, following her arrest in October 2014, Robitille told police in a recorded statement that she was the one who gave vodka to the teen. Richters also testified earlier this week that he watched Robitille pour the vodka into the teenager’s feeding tube.
Richters admitted that giving the boy alcohol was his idea, but said Robitille was the one who administered it.
“I instructed her that I didn’t feel good about giving him the vodka,” Richters testified. “I thought it would be better if she did it, because I didn’t trust myself. I was not hands-on with him.”
WPTZ said Robitille retracted her confession on the stand Wednesday, saying she told police she gave Issac the vodka to protect Richters.
“I was covering for Walter, because he had said that he could not go to jail and I had to cover for him,” she testified.
Jurors on Tuesday heard the police recording of Robitille’s statement, in which she told detectives that she put 15 ccs, or about three teaspoons, of vodka in Issac’s feeding tube, WPTZ said.
WCAX in Burlington reported after the couple’s 2014 arrests that the boy’s autopsy showed his blood alcohol concentration to be 0.146, almost twice the limit for an adult to drive legally.
Richters admitted on the stand that he has a history of heavy drinking and said he drank a fifth of vodka the night Issac died. Prosecutors pointed out that Robitille was also drinking that night, WPTZ reported.
Both defendants were initially charged with second-degree murder in Issac’s death. Richters was sentenced last year to three years in prison as part of a deal with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and agreed to testify against Robitille.
Robitille has a blog online in which she stated that she is an author, editor and ghostwriter. Her Amazon author page describes her as a “speculative fiction writer -- fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal romance and all things weird” -- who also works as a freelance editor, book formatter and cover designer.
She often wrote about Issac on her blog, calling him “Little Man” and talking about his day-to-day activities and achievements.
“The doctors said he wouldn't live to be 6 months old,” Robitille wrote in one post. “He's a delightfully happy little boy, loves math, hugs, kisses and his dog.”
The blog had no posts at all in 2014, but she posted in January 2015 that, “after finally dragging (herself) out of what was indisputably the worst year of (her) life,” she had returned to freelance editing.
Her most recent blog entry, posted in January, detailed the works she was editing and ways to promote one of her own novels.
Her Amazon page stated that her plans for 2017 include more short stories, novellas and novels.