WHITE CREEK, N.Y. – An ex-convict with Nazi swastika tattoos was arraigned Thursday evening on arson and murder charges after the fiery deaths of his mother, stepfather and stepbrother at their home and an extensive manhunt for him.
Matthew Slocum was arraigned in town court on three counts of second-degree murder as well as first- and second-degree arson, White Creek Town Justice Philip Sica said. The charges also accuse Slocum of shooting the victims with a firearm. He pleaded not guilty and was jailed without bail while awaiting a preliminary hearing July 19.
Slocum, 23, surrendered in Gilsum, N.H., late Wednesday following a daylong manhunt in three states. Police had been looking for him, his girlfriend and their baby since early Wednesday, when a fire erupted at the White Creek home he shared with his family.
Slocum did not speak during a brief court hearing earlier Thursday in Keene, N.H., on a fugitive from justice charge. He agreed to return to New York.
Washington County Sheriff Roger Leclaire said autopsies were being done Thursday and authorities wouldn't discuss a possible motive or details of the killings and fire. He said Slocum was cooperating with investigators.
Police said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Slocum has Nazi swastikas tattooed on each arm. It was unclear if he had a job. His Facebook page's "About Matthew" entry reads: "I'm a beast."
Washington County sheriff's Lt. Jeff Tucker said Slocum had been in trouble before in and around his hometown, located amid the rolling, scenic farmland along the Vermont state line.
"He was very well known to law enforcement," Tucker said from the police chief's office in the neighboring village of Cambridge.
Slocum was paroled Dec. 29, 2009, after serving most of a four-year sentence for breaking into a home in Cambridge and stealing cash, authorities said. He also had been charged with assault for an altercation at a local convenience store, police said.
Slocum is the son of Lisa Harrington, identified by friends and colleagues as one of the fire victims. They also said her husband, Dan, and his adult son Josh died in the fire in White Creek, 35 miles northeast of Albany, the capital. Amber Alerts had been issued in New York and New England for Slocum's girlfriend, 25-year-old Loretta Colegrove, of Cambridge, and their infant son, Raymond.
Slocum was taken into custody at the Gilsum home of his uncle Scott Slocum several hours after a New Hampshire state trooper spotted the wanted man's car Wednesday afternoon.
Cheshire County sheriff's Deputy Joshua Paulette said Thursday he was called in around 3 p.m. Wednesday and sent to the Gilsum Elementary School, where an all-day summer day care program was being held. He and a trooper arrived at the school at about 3:45 p.m. and moved about 20 kids, including Scott Slocum's two daughters, to the school library, the farthest point in the building from the Slocum home.
The home is about 200 yards from the school.
"Our primary concern was the safety of the kids," Paulette said Thursday from where he was guarding Matt Slocum's black Ford Mustang, which was parked in the woods off a remote dirt road, partially covered with a tarp.
Ray Britton, the owner of the Gilsum Village Store, about 100 yards from the Slocum home, said all side streets in Gilsum were blocked off at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. Tucked in the middle of the blockade, he stayed open for three extra hours and ferried orders for food, cigarettes and other items to neighbors, news crews and others outside the zone.
"It was crazy last night," he said.
After several hours of negotiations with police, Matt Slocum freed Colegrove and the baby, authorities said. A short time later, Slocum surrendered, they said.
The Amber Alerts were issued after Slocum left his burning White Creek home in the black 2003 Ford Mustang. He was reported near Colegrove's mother's home in Adams, Mass., at about 5 a.m.
The sheriff said Colegrove and her child were with her family in Massachusetts on Thursday and she wouldn't be charged.
People who knew the Harringtons said they were a well-known and well-liked couple in White Creek, where Dan was the deputy highway superintendent for the past five years.
"Jeepers creepers, when you lose somebody who's in your town and you're close to them, he's going to be sorely missed, he really will," said White Creek Town Supervisor Bob Shay, who described Dan Harrington as "one of those quiet, can-do guys."
Shay said he last spoke with Harrington on Tuesday night at a town board meeting at which the deputy superintendent stood in for his vacationing boss. Just hours later, Harrington's body was found among the smoldering rubble of his home.
"That's tough to handle," Shay said.
Vince Canini, superintendent of the Cambridge Central School District, which includes White Creek, said Slocum and Loretta Colegrove were students there but didn't graduate from the local high school.
Jonathan Slocum, Matthew's uncle, said he was having a difficult time believing his nephew was a suspect in the deaths.
"If you're asking to me to speak to the person," he said in a phone interview, "Matthew is a loving son and a loving brother."
Tuohy reported from Gilsum and Keene, N.H.
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