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WESTBOROUGH, Massachusetts (WHDH) – A Westborough, Massachusetts man was arraigned Wednesday morning on charges of kidnapping after he allegedly locked a Verizon worker in an airtight underground utility vault.
Howard Cook, 71, silently left court Wednesday after being accused of kidnapping and locking a man in an airtight vault.
Police said Cook was angry when a Verizon worker parked his work van on Cook’s property. That worker’s family was in court, and listened as prosecutors described how a ladder was removed. The vault was shut and heavy boulders placed on top to make sure no one could get out.
“Scary. When I heard the 911 call, I was frightened to hear my husband’s voice, the shaking, the fear. I heard the fear in him. That was frightening,” said Mary Hathaway the victim’s wife.
Once the door is sealed, the vault ventilation system shuts off. Westborough police rushed to the scene and said Cook didn’t seem concerned.
“He should have taken more responsibility for what he did and not done it in the first place, but he did what he did, and there are consequences for it,” said Alan Gordon, Westboro Police Chief.
In court, Cook entered a not guilty plea. His attorney said he’s a retiree who has served as president of the United Way and coached little league. Cook’s attorney also said the worker was able to unlock the door from the inside. However, police said without the ladder and with boulders on top of the hatch, there was no way that worker was able to get out without help.
“He was afraid what he would face once he came out of the vault, too. He wanted to make sure there was a police officer there because this person was so irate he thought he was going to be assaulted,” Gordon said.
The victim’s family said they don’t understand this level of anger over where the victim parked his work van.
“He’s the most gentle individual you would ever meet,” said Joanne Hathaway, the victim’s mother.
Defense attorneys also pointed a finger at the design of the vault, and said it shouldn’t have become airtight. The suspect was released on his own recognizance. Cook is due back in court in a few weeks.