A story as old as time: Patrick Rooney of Vermont steals priceless artifact, tries to sell it, ends up committing suicide

Weird story out of Vermont: Patrick Rooney, 55, stole the Chittenden County Road Commissioners 1828-1831 manuscript from the Burlington Fletcher Free Library — and then tried to sell it to the University of Vermont’s Bailey/Howe Library. Ultimately the charge assigned to Rooney was only “possessing stolen property worth less than $900,” and he only tried to sell it to the University for $175. It’s valued at $500, but … it has connections to Ira Allen, the brother of more famous Ethan Allen, but also the founder of Vermont in his own right. (The clip above is Ralph Nader speaking at the Ira Allen Chapel; see how seamlessly this thing is coming together?)

Rooney was charged and bail was set at $5,000, and now … it appears he committed suicide after failing to appear in Vermont Superior Court.

Committing suicide over a charge of less than $900 seems a bit odd, so you wonder if maybe there’s a bigger story here:

The Free Press reported last month that court records show Rooney has a history of similar criminal charges from cases, including the Charlotte Memorial Museum, the Essex Library and the Townsend Public Library.

And this:

Investigation showed Rooney took the document by removing it from the binding of its original volume, the Burlington Proprietors Volume 1 when he was given access to the historical collection at the library, Hemond said.

I love regional stories that appear to be one thing but could be something entirely different. I feel bad for Rooney’s family and what they’re going through right now, but a suicide over a $900 charge does seem like maybe something deeper was going on. This guy had some Nicolas Cage in National Treasure-esque moves here, it appears; is it possible he had stolen something bigger and police were getting too close? Worthless speculation in all likelihood, but interesting nonetheless.

Look at the list of what was recovered; this guy had some skill. Is there something that wasn’t recovered?

Ted Bauer