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Two more suspects sought in drug murder

By Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First,

BURLINGTON – Two more people are being sought by police in addition to the three defendants charged earlier in a federal drug case that included the fatal shooting of an Orleans County woman found in the Missisquoi River in Troy last month.

The names of the two new defendants are under seal in a fresh federal drug trafficking indictment returned by a grand jury sitting in Burlington last Thursday, court records show.

Meanwhile the investigation continues into the death of Kayla Wright, 29, of Derby, who was shot multiple times and at least once in the head.

The information about the two additional defendants came to light as Jakiy Tramaine-Corey Keith, 24, of Troy was arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Burlington on the new indictment.

Keith, also known as “AB” and Anthony Borrow,” waived his right to appear in person in court, Federal Magistrate Kevin J. Doyle said. Not guilty pleas were entered for four felony charges on behalf of Keith who remained jailed at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.

Also charged in the indictment are Thomas P. Rooney, 34, and his wife, Bryanna Fields Rooney, 29, both of 7021 Vermont 100 in Troy, who were arrested earlier, records show.

The Caledonian Record was the first to report their arrests on federal drug charges on Feb. 7 following a raid at the Troy home.

No criminal charges have been filed in federal or state court in the death of Wright, who comes from a well-known local family and has a twin sister. Wright was last heard from by her family early on Feb. 2, state police said. Troopers said they found her cellphone at the Rooney residence on Feb. 3.

All five defendants, including the two new unidentified persons, are charged with knowingly and intentionally conspiring with each other both in Vermont and elsewhere to distribute cocaine and fentanyl and to possess both drugs with intent to distribute them between December 2023 and Feb. 7.

Keith’s not guilty pleas also covered a separate count for carrying and using a gun while drug trafficking between January and Feb. 2, records show.

The other two felony charges Keith denied are for knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine on both Jan. 3 and Jan. 10.

No dates have been set for the arraignment for Thomas and Bryanna Rooney on the new indictment.

They were indicted on the conspiracy charge and for the Jan. 10th cocaine sale. The Rooneys also are charged as owners of the home on Vermont 100 with allowing the residence to be used for the unlawful manufacturing, storing, distributing and using of both cocaine and fentanyl, the indictment said.

One of the two new unidentified defendants is indicted on two charges: with helping to manage and control the Rooney’s drug house on Vermont 100 and with being part of the drug conspiracy.

The other new defendant is charged with being part of the conspiracy and with being involved in the Jan. 3 drug sale, records show.

The government also is asking for the five defendants to forfeit all drug proceeds, including $11,458 seized as part of the investigation.

During Keith’s arraignment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Lasher explained the government had a significant amount of evidence in the case. He said there were law enforcement reports and recordings and a traffic stop involving Keith, who subsequently gave police a statement. Lasher said there also was a search warrant at the residence, Keith’s criminal history report and the government does not expect the lab results of the drugs in the case to be completed by the Vermont Forensics Lab for two months.

Defense lawyer Chandler Matson of Stowe asked for 3 months to obtain all the evidence, review it and consider possible pre-trial motions. Doyle set a June 10th deadline.

Vermont State Police said it received a call about 1 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 6 from a member of the public who reported having discovered a possible human body inside a large toolbox on a sand bar in the Missisquoi River. It was in the area of Big Falls of Missisquoi State Park on River Road, police said.

The investigation into the suspicious death continued through the night as police conducted interviews with people who might have critical information.

Multiple law enforcement agencies later executed a court-ordered search warrant Feb. 7 at the Rooney home, which had been the focus of the federal drug investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations.

HSI Special Agent Scott Labor said at least two drug sales were monitored at the residence at 7021 Vermont 100 in Troy, court records show.

More than a dozen cellphones, a couple of tablets, a ledger and a logbook were seized during the raid at the Rooney home about 6:20 a.m. Feb. 7, according to Border Patrol Agent Brian Wilda, a member of the HSI Task Force.

Wright’s death was ruled a homicide by the office of Vermont’s Chief Medical Examiner, officials said.

Kayla Wright had been associating with Keith and others at the house, Labor said. When state police did an emergency ping on Wright’s cellphone, it came back as being at the house, Labor said.

State Police Sgt. Daniel Lynch went to the home on Feb. 3 and spoke to Bryanna Rooney, who later surrendered Wright’s phone after finding it in a pile of clothes, Labor said.

State police said they were looking for evidence that could be connected to the homicide.

The Vermont Drug Task Force, Vermont State Police, the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, Newport City Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are working with HSI as part of the wide-ranging criminal investigation.


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