Raiders kill residents, rob home

Survivors Committee renamed; will focus on defense issues

The bodies of Steve and Emma Jones were found sitting in their chairs, slumped over the kitchen table, above. They both had bullet wounds to their heads, although there was no sign the victims tried to resist the aggressors.

In a murderous May 4th raid on the home of Steve and Emma Jones, whose house is the first on Gilead Brook Road and directly abuts Route 12, both residents were killed and their home emptied of food and other valuables. Although the assailants are of unknown identity, Joe and Shara Tobiason, who live across the road from the Jones home, said the thieves numbered about a dozen, and were in a pickup truck and a late-model Toyota sedan, both with Massachusetts license plates.

They were also heavily-armed, said Tobiason. “We had the windows open, and heard vehicle doors slam and quite a few voices we didn’t recognize, which was really surprising since we haven’t heard cars on the highway for weeks,” said Tobiason. “I looked out the window and saw men with guns kicking down Steve and Emma’s door, so I got Shara and the kids into the basement and ran out the back door and headed for Rich [Bennington] and Stanley [Lyon]’s place for help.”

Tobiason noted that he’s generally a pacifist and doesn’t keep any weapons in his house, and so knew he needed to get help before trying to aid the Joneses. “Unfortunately, Rich and Stanley were both helping Sam [Chambers] manure one of the hay fields, so nobody was home,” Tobiason said, “so I continued on to the Blackwells.”

Julie and Scott Blackwell were home, Tobiason related, but by the time they all made their way back to a safe vantage point behind the Tobiason home, the thieves were throwing the last of their stolen booty in the back of the pickup truck and leaving. Hesitant to start a shoot-out with a group that out-manned and out-gunned them, the Blackwells and Tobiason decided to remain hidden.

“It was absolutely the right thing to do,” said Rich Bennington, an Afghan war veteran and security consultant. “From what Joe and Julie told me, these thieves had semi-automatic weapons, and all Julie and Scott had were a couple of bolt-action .22’s. They would have gotten themselves and maybe others killed if they had started anything.”

After the raiders were out of sight on Highway 12 heading toward Randolph, Tobiason and the Blackwells ran to the Jones residence to see if Steve and Emma were safe. “That’s when we found their bodies in the kitchen,” said Tobiason. “To me, it didn’t even look like they had posed any threat to the thieves, because they were both slumped over the kitchen table, both shot in the head. It looked like an execution, plain and simple.”

Paradigm shift

The Gilead Survivors Committee, organized as an ad-hoc group to handle issues that affect the entire neighborhood, held a meeting the same evening as the murders, just hours after burying the Joneses in the Gilead Cemetery. Although emotions were still raw, the meeting was characterized largely by rational discourse and cool-headed decision-making. “This is absolutely a wake-up call for us,” said Jim Nash, a PR consultant and one of the planners who proposed the resource-procurement mission executed late last month. “Based on what little we knew up until today, we were damn near alone around here, but now it seems there are other survivors from farther away who have no compunction about taking advantage of the lack of law enforcement.”

This new situation, Nash said at the meeting, requires a radical shift in Gilead residents’ thinking. “Basically, this means we need to defend ourselves, because nobody else is going to do it for us.”

Bennington agreed, and it seemed most residents at the meeting naturally looked to him for guidance, given his military experience and background as a consultant in security matters.

After much discussion and debate, the committee agreed that a group of 17 people was far too cumbersome to get anything done in a timely manner, and settled on a nine-person group, dubbed the Gilead Defense Committee. The GDC will essentially be the decision-making body of the Gilead area, focused primarily on the pressing need to ensure that Route 12 does not become an unmanageable threat to the Gilead’s continued survival.

Although based purely on speculation, the consensus at the meeting was that the collapse caused by the pandemic left cities in much worse shape than those in smaller towns or the countryside, since city survivors would be unable to support themselves for more than a few weeks without power, with shops and stores as their only sources of food and drinking water. “It seems to make sense that once the cities were tapped out of supplies, people had no choice but to escape to the countryside to see what they could find,” said Karl Larsen, a retired FBI agent. “And what they found has probably been places like this, where people have stored-up supplies, so they quickly hit places that are right along the road, and then move on. We can only expect more of the same, I suspect.”

Larsen, who lives about two miles down Gilead Brook Road from Route 12, says he isn’t too anxious about raiders getting that far, but those who live in the first several hundred yards of the road, he said, need to be protected. “And if anyone passing by looking for supplies were to get an idea that we’re as well-stocked as we are,” he said, “we could all be in for some serious trouble.”

The newly-formed GDC took its first vote on the same evening it formed, resolving to create a collaborative defense of the Gilead area from raiders. The resolution read as follows:

“We, the Gilead Defense Committee, as the duly elected representatives of the Gilead survivors of the Pandemic, resolve to formulate detailed plans for the defense of our homes, our families, and our resources, and commit to always placing the interests of the group and its survival over our own members’ personal interests and preferences.”

Given the urgent nature of the defense issues the GDC faces, their second vote was to defer formulation of rules, regulations, and procedures that will govern the functioning of the GDC and any subcommittees it forms. “There’s lots more to be done,” said Nash, “like elect a committee chair, decide how often to elect members, how to break deadlocks, and a million other things, but none of that will mean sh-t if we don’t figure out how to defend ourselves, so I think we made the right decision about how to go forward.”

GDC members elected

The GDC members elected by the now-disbanded, 30-member Gilead Survivors Committee include nine representatives listed below in alphabetical order. Typical news of this sort would also include a delineation of how the GDC will function, what its roles will be, and much more; however, due to the exigencies at hand – primarily the possibility of additional raids in the near future – the GDC will focus on that task only, and details will emerge at future meetings, the frequency of which was decided to be “as needed” by a unanimous voice-vote of all those in attendance. The Gilead Informer will provide this additional critical information as soon as it becomes available.

Martha Arceneaux: A social worker and patient advocate at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. Has lived in Gilead 8 years. Married to Jennifer Godin, an EMT with White River Valley Ambulance.

Richard Bennington: Security consultant working primarily with private security corporations that have contracts with U.S. and foreign governments. Also an Afghan War veteran with combat experience. Has lived in Gilead 12 years. Married to Stanley Lyon, also an Afghan War vet and an insurance company actuary.

Charles Calhoun: Logger, forester, and farmer who uses his draft horses for much of his heavy work. Lifelong resident of Gilead. Married to Jeanne, also a logger, forester, and farmer. Three kids: Ben, Jamie and Prudence

Samuel Chambers: Dairy and beef cattle farmer. Lifelong resident of Gilead. Married to Diane, also a dairy and beef cattle farmer. Two kids: Samuel Jr. and Marcus.

Mark Cohen: A novelist and freelance writer. Five year resident of Gilead. Married to Sharon, also a novelist and writer. One daughter: Rebecca.

Chelsea Graff: A high school history and social studies teacher at Randolph. Five-year resident of Gilead. Life partner of Robert Jamison, a carpenter.

James Nash: Independent public relations consultant. Five-year resident of Gilead. Married to Stella, an equine riding instructor. Three kids: Jason, Mary, and Josephine.

Eric Quinton: Automobile mechanic. Eight-year resident of Gilead. Married to Bella, a veterinarian’s assistant. Two kids: Lief and Charles.

Joseph Tobiason: Marketing and advertising consultant. 20-year resident of Gilead. Married to Shara. Two kids: Paul and Allison.

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