High bail set for Connecticut pair suspected in latest Pittsfield armed robbery


PITTSFIELD — Two Connecticut men have been ordered held on high bail for allegedly holding up a city convenience store with a replica pistol Tuesday afternoon.

Lionel Ortiz, 34 and Vincent L. Thaxter, 37, both of Hartford, entered the Lipton Mart on South Street about 3:50 p.m., and one of them pointed what appeared to be a handgun at the clerk and demanded specific denominations of cash, according to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Andrew Giarolo. The pair fled on foot with about $300.

A witness reported seeing the pair get into a white SUV, and they provided police with a partial plate number.

Soon after, police spotted and pulled over a vehicle matching the description with a corresponding plate number traveling east on Gamwell Avenue.

A search of the vehicle recovered clothing matching the description given by witnesses, cash in the specific denominations demanded by the robbers, and the replica pistol, Giarolo said.

Pittsfield Police confirmed the weapon was a realistic-looking replica pistol, nearly indistinguishable from a working firearm.

Both men allegedly confessed to the robbery, Giarolo said.

Judge Paul Smyth was asked to consider bails of $25,000 each for the pair, considering the serious nature of the crime and their out of state residences.

Giarolo noted that Thaxter had a 2007 conviction in Connecticut for third-degree assault and received a 30-day sentence.

Smyth ordered Thaxter held on $25,000 bail; he set bail at $15,000 for Ortiz in consideration of his lack of any notable criminal record.

Both men can appeal their bail amounts in Berkshire Superior Court. They are due back in court on March 25 for pretrial hearings.

Tuesday's incident was the 13th armed robbery committed in the city since late November of last year.

Suspects in six of those robberies have been arrested and are facing charges; six other robberies remain open investigations.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no indication from investigators whether Ortiz and Thaxter are considered suspects in any of the open cases.

"The detective bureau is actively engaged in these investigations and are certainly open to any leads or evidence," according to Pittsfield Police Capt. David Granger, who replied via email to questions about the open cases.

"We would like to thank the general public for cooperation and support we received throughout the incident and again to thank women and men of the Pittsfield Police Department for their quick response and extensive support of this major crimes investigation," Granger said.

During Wednesday's arraignment, Smyth granted a motion filed by attorneys representing the suspects barring media cameras from the courtroom.

Attorneys David Cafarelli and Nathaniel Green, representing Ortiz and Thaxter respectively, filed the motion, claiming identification of the suspects may be "a critical issue" at trial and publishing their photos is "highly suggestive and conducive to irreparable misidentification."

Smyth granted the motion over an objection by The Berkshire Eagle.

It was later learned that both men allegedly confessed to the robbery when interviewed by police following their arrest.

Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.


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