2011-07-21 / Front Page

‘Flatbread’ Murder Suspect Tangled with Local Police

By M.D. Drysdale

A 27-year-old man arraigned last week in Orange County District Court on charges of assaulting a Randolph police officer is the same person who was charged but acquitted of first-degree murder in the so-called American Flatbread murder in Waitsfield nine years ago.

Isaac L. Turnbaugh, identified in court records as a Randolph resident, pleaded innocent July 6 of simple assault earlier that day on Sgt. David C. Leighton of the Randolph Police Department. Judge Patricia Zimmerman ordered Turnbaugh to have an inpatient psychiatric examination at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury and to be held there on $1000 bail.

According to Randolph police, as of last Friday, July 15, Turnbaugh was still at the state hospital.

An affidavit filed in court July 6 confirms that Turnbaugh is the same Isaac Turnbaugh who was accused of killing co-worker Declan Lyons, 24, with a rifle shot to the head while Lyons was working outside at the American Flatbread restaurant in Waitsfield.

Furthermore, the affidavit states that Randolph police were questioning Turnbaugh July 6 precisely because he had told them that he was indeed the shooter.

After officers were dispatched to at 3 Weston Street shortly after midnight, according to Sgt. Leighton’s affidavit, Turnbaugh came out to the front porch and assumed a prone position. At that point, he “made a number of spontaneous comments relating to the past homicide, one of which was that he had shot Declan Ryan in the head with his .30-.30 rifle,” the affidavit states.

(This was not the first time that Turnbaugh claimed he had killed Ryan, but at trial he denied it and said he was ingesting drugs when he made the statement.)

 “After listening to Mr. Turnbaugh speak of this for a few minutes, we (Sgt. Leighton and Patrolman Kevin Almquist) asked him if he’d go to RPD with us while we made some phone calls to sort this all out,” the affidavit continues. Turnbaugh agreed and was transported to the police office without restraints. 

After a few minutes in the station, however, Turnbaugh approached Sgt. Leighton in Almquist’s office, said “Officer,” and “very quickly struck me on my lower left lip with his closed fist before I had a chance to react or defend myself. The blow bloodied the inside of his lip, Leighton wrote in the affidavit. 

Immediately afterward, he wrote, Turnbaugh “fled back to the conference room, where he placed himself in a prone position on the floor.”

He was secured with handcuffs to a bench and eventually was arraigned that same day.

Puzzling Case

The Waitsfield shooting was one of the most puzzling and highly-publicized crimes in Vermont at the time and is still considered unsolved. 

Stephanie Dasaro, public information officer for the Vermont State Police, said the state police would be interested in the Randolph investigation.

“Any statements made by Turnbaugh, obtained through the course of the investigation by the Randolph Police Department, are being reviewed by the Vermont State Police, she told The Herald in an email.

Lyons was working outside at the Flatbread restaurant on April 12, 2002, when he was shot once in the head from some distance. 

Police determined the next week that the shooting was not an accident. 

Turnbaugh was charged after his mother called state police saying she was afraid her son might have been involved. Turnbaugh allegedly had told friends at a campfire party that he had been the shooter.

Turnbaugh later denied he had shot Lyons, claiming that he had used marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms at the party.

Turnbaugh has a well-documented history of mental illness. Before the trial began, he was held for 19 months in a special mental health unit of the St. Albans jail. He was later judged to be competent to stand trial.

The three-week trial in April of 2004 resulted in a “not-guilty” verdict, and Turnbaugh was released. 

A month later, however, he went on a rampage at his parents’ home in Moretown. Charges for that incident were dropped when he was declared mentally ill and was involuntarily committed to the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. 

He was released from the state hospital in May of 2005 and placed in an unidentified residential home.

The Declan Lyons murder was never solved, as police said they had no other suspect.

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