July 03. 2013 3:41PM

Husband of missing Charlestown woman arrested in Vt. after chase

New Hampshire Union Leader

Nicole Lavoie begins to cry after singing Amazing Grace at a vigil for missing Charlestown woman Kelly Robarge Tuesday. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)


The estranged husband of a missing Charlestown woman was arrested in Vermont on Tuesday after leading police on a chase that ended up at a community health center where he was seeking mental health care, authorities said.

James Robarge, 43, of Rockingham, Vt., pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in a Brattleboro courtroom Wednesday afternoon to charges of attempting to elude, a felony, and reckless operation, a misdemeanor, according to a court official. He was being held on $5,000 cash or surety bail. Bail conditions included not operating a vehicle or consuming alcohol, the official said.

Last Friday, the New Hampshire Attorney General's office put out a statement saying they believe Kelly Robarge "suffered significant physical harm or death."

Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell on Wednesday said Mr. Robarge "was seeking mental health care." Morrell also confirmed that Mrs. Robarge filed for divorce last Thursday, the same day she was last seen alive.

Mr. Robarge "was arrested on independent criminal charges" separate from the Charlestown investigation, Morrell said.

In a news release, Vermont State Police said that it became involved after Bellows Falls, Vt., police received a report about a suspicious person that made an appointment at the Rockingham Medical Group in Bellows Falls.

"The reporting party also advised that 'this person was likely to become violent' and may be involved in a missing person case from Charlestown, New Hampshire," the news release said. Police said the suspicious person was identified as Mr. Robarge.

Morrell said she couldn't comment on whether authorities questioned Mr. Robarge as part of their investigation.

"In a general sense, obviously anytime we're investigating the disappearance of a person, we're asking their family members about the last time they've seen them and their whereabouts and it's obvious if there's a domestic issue or pending divorce that the spouse would be an obvious person of interest to question," Morrell said.

Morrell said searchers from New Hampshire Fish and Game were out looking for Mrs. Robarge on Wednesday.

"As we've said from the beginning, we were concerned for her physical safety and thought she could be seriously injured or dead and with every passing day when she's not in touch with other family members, our concerns grow deeper," she said.

Vermont State Police said Bellows Falls police tried to intercept Robarge prior to his arrival at the medical facility to ensure the building's safety. Officers spotted Robarge traveling south on Vermont Route 121 in a 1996 Chevrolet Blazer with Vermont license plates. Officers stopped the Blazer, but Robarge refused to exit and sped into the village of Bellows Falls.

Robarge drove the Blazer into the medical building's parking lot, nearly striking pedestrians and coming to rest against a planter near the building's entrance. Robarge then immediately fled the vehicle and he ran inside the facility.

After running down several hallways, Robarge was taken into custody by officers from the Bellows Falls Police Department.

Joshua Dufresne, chief of practice operations for Springfield Medical Care Systems, in which the community health center belongs, didn't return phone messages Wednesday.