The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that Howard Hoisington, age 34, formerly of Berlin, Vermont was sentenced on May 31, 2018 on charges of arson with death resulting and conspiracy to commit robbery stemming from the fatal arson that occurred in Northfield, Vermont in December 2015. United States District Judge Christina Reiss sentenced Hoisington to a 24-year term of incarceration, followed by five years of supervised release. Hoisington was also ordered to pay restitution to the victims of his offenses in the amount of $620,025.92.
As described at Hoisington’s sentencing and in court records, in the fall of 2015, Howard Hoisington, Jonathan Zampieri, Tammy Wilder, Kevin Atwood, and Kim Hoisington committed a series of robberies of drug dealers in the Washington County area of Vermont. Some of these robberies involved a scheme of dousing a person selling drugs with gasoline and threatening them with a lighter to rob them of their drugs. The last of these robberies resulted in a fire that destroyed a building in Northfield and killed innocent bystander Brittany Burt.
As also described at Hoisington’s sentencing and in court records, on December 14, 2015, Howard Hoisington, Zampieri, Tammy Wilder, Kim Hoisington, and Amanda Wilder drove in Zampieri’s vehicle to pick up Atwood in Montpelier. They all drove to the Cumberland Farms in Northfield where Zampieri filled two mason jars with gasoline. From there, the group drove to the apartment of Efren Serrano on Union Street in Northfield, Vermont, from whom they had arranged to purchase crack cocaine. Zampieri, Howard Hoisington, and Atwood went to Serrano’s apartment and kicked in the front door. They found Serrano and Serrano’s girlfriend, Brittany Burt, in the bedroom. Serrano and Burt were doused with gasoline and the men demanded Serrano’s drugs. When Serrano did not respond, Zampieri pulled out a lighter. The lighter went off, igniting the gasoline vapors and causing the room to burst into flames. Zampieri, Howard Hoisington, and Atwood fled the building. At some point, Serrano was able to run from the building on fire. Serrano sustained life threatening injuries, but he survived. Brittany Burt could not escape the building. She died on the bedroom floor.
Howard Hoisington’s co-defendants, Jonathan Zampieri, Tammy Wilder, Kim Hoisington, and Richard Hoisington have all pleaded guilty to various charges. They await sentencing.
This case provides an example of the United States Attorney’s Office Violent Crime Initiative, aimed at pursuing federal prosecutions involving the intersection of drug trafficking and violence. United States Attorney Christina Nolan commended the efforts of Vermont State Police, Vermont Drug Task Force, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as the Northfield Police Department, Barre City Police Department, and Berlin Police Department. The United States Attorney’s Office worked in partnership with the Washington County State’s Attorney Scott William to investigate and resolve this important matter.
United States Attorney Nolan added, “To describe this crime as senseless and abhorrent would be an understatement. It is a stark example of the horrific violence that too often arises from the trafficking of crack cocaine and other dangerous drugs. Federal prosecutors will work tirelessly with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to demonstrate zero tolerance for crimes of such depravity. Resolution and justice for the victims and their families was achieved through the collaborative efforts of our federal, state, and local investigators, and through the teamwork of state and federal prosecutors. We will continue to come together to achieve justice for victims, and peace and security for Vermonters. There is no place for such horrific violence in our state and our charging priorities will so reflect.”
ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lawrence Panetta said, “Arson is a crime of extreme violence that puts the lives of the public and first responders in grave danger. ATF is committed with our local, state, and federal public safety partners to ensure our communities remain free from the dangerous acts arsonists commit and utilize all the necessary resources to bring these individuals to justice.”
“Howard Hoisington’s sentencing is an important first step in resolving this case and bringing closure to the Burt family and the other victims of these crimes,” added Lieutenant Todd Baxter of the Vermont State Police. “VSP remains committed to preventing and investigating violent crime throughout the State of Vermont, and bringing those who commit violent crimes to justice.”
Howard Hoisington is represented by Steven Barth and Elizabeth Quinn of the Federal Public Defender’s Office. The United States is represented by AUSAs Paul Van de Graaf and John Boscia.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
District of Vermont