By Darren Marcy
CASTLETON — People who know Stephen F. Pelletier, the Castleton man charged with first-degree murder for the death of Michael Wisell, say they are shocked and described Pelletier as a kind, friendly and good-natured family man.
The person who most likely knows Pelletier best, his brother, David Pelletier, said his phone had been ringing all day Wednesday.
“I’ve received a lot of phone calls today, all in support of my brother and my family,” David Pelletier said.
Michael Pelletier, 58, is the youngest of three siblings and family has remained important to him throughout his life.
He and his wife, Ann, have three daughters and three grandchildren that he enjoys taking fishing and “just doing the things a grandpa does,” David Pelletier said. “It’s pretty rough.”
“He’s a good father, good grandfather … it’s upsetting,” said Sean Seguin of Castleton. “I know how good he’s been to me and how good a guy he is. The whole thing is pretty mind-blowing.”
In the court affidavit, Stephen Pelletier told investigators Wisell had been physically abusive to his daughter and verbally abusive to the rest of his family. He allegedly told police he was protecting his family when he shot and killed Wisell in a sugar house.
Making maple syrup and other maple products is a big part of his life, along with growing and selling hay, running a sawmill and raising a few beef cattle.
Lori Barker of Hubbardton runs the Castleton Farmers Market and said Stephen Pelletier and his wife have been part of the market since its beginning five years ago and Barker said she’s known him for more than 20 years.
“He’s usually in good humor,” Barker said. “When I’ve been around him he’s laughing and joking. He’s just an outgoing, nice guy.”
A dairy operation that Pelletier’s father handed down was shut down about five years ago.
“His cows were treated like royalty,” David Pelletier said, and added that his brother hustled to keep things going and was a hard worker.
Friends and neighbors said Stephen Pelletier was hard at it from early to late.
“He was working 24-7,” said Gail Hunt, who lived just up the road. “I’d see him early mornings and late in the evening.”
Seguin said he has known Pelletier all his life and when Seguin hurt his back in December, Pelletier took over caring for Seguin’s bulls.
“He’s done it pretty much out of the goodness of his heart,” Seguin said. “He’s a generous guy who’d give you the shirt right off his back. And he’s always been a hard-working guy.”
David Williams of Castleton said he and another guy were once cutting wood near Pelletier’s property and he stopped and helped them out.
Pelletier was described as not being a violent person, and Williams said, “Something must of pushed the guy pretty hard.”
“As long as I’ve known him, he’s always been a real, real peaceful guy,” Seguin said. “He’s never been a violent guy. He’s always been pretty laid back.”
Barker and others said they could see Pelletier defending his family, but it would still have had to be pretty bad to cause him to take a life.
“Most people are protective of their family,” Barker said. “But something would have had to have gone really bad wrong.”
And Hunt said her admiration for the Pelletier family came from watching them.
“I always admired them,” she said. “He was always focused on his family. I feel so bad for him. He’s not a criminal. It’s very sad.”