A former local police chief who was back in court on new, unrelated charges decades after being accused of murder was released on house arrest.
Robert K. Chambers, 64, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Cheshire County Superior Court to seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault during his arraignment and two bail hearings.
He was released from the Cheshire County jail at 4:48 Wednesday afternoon, according to jail Superintendent Richard N. Van Wickler.
Two hearings were required to determine whether electronic monitoring would be a condition of Chambers’ release; ultimately, it was not.
Chambers is accused of sexually assaulting a child through a variety of acts, including sexual penetration, between April 1994 and March 2000. He was indicted by a grand jury this week and arrested Tuesday.
Chambers is a former police chief of Gilsum and Marlow who was also once a suspect in the 1978 murder of his friend Russell Bean. He was initially charged with second-degree murder in 1988, but later a grand jury declined to hand up an indictment.
Police began investigating Chambers in Bean’s death after his father, Clifton G. Chambers 3rd, allegedly made a confession on his deathbed in the late 1980s. Eight days before he died, he allegedly told his daughter, Melissa, that an ax was involved in Bean’s death and that he had helped bury his body in his son’s yard.
Police found Bean’s remains in Robert Chambers’ front yard in Marlow.
At the first bail hearing on Wednesday, Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Keith Clouatre recommended setting Chambers’ bail at $50,000, but then said that considering Chambers’ health problems, he should be released on electronic monitoring in case he cannot come up with the money.
Chambers has recently completed cancer treatment, has diabetes and a heart condition and suffers from sleep apnea, according to his attorney, public defender Meredith V. Lugo.
In a second bail hearing at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. set Chambers’ bail at $10,000 personal recognizance, with electronic monitoring not a condition of his house arrest.
According to Van Wickler, the jail argued that Chambers’ “risk was too high to be a candidate for electronic monitoring.”
Van Wickler said while the court usually follows the jail’s recommendations on using electronic monitoring, the court has final say on bail conditions.
In response to a question as to whether a person accused of a violent crime poses a greater risk on house arrest without electronic monitoring than with it, Van Wickler said “of course ... because there is no way to monitor whether or not they are home.” But he emphasized that the jail follows court orders.
Pending trial, Chambers must also meet other bail conditions. He is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with minors, travel outside the state, possess a firearm or contact the person he allegedly assaulted, Kissinger ruled. He also must check in weekly with State Police and can leave his home only to meet with his legal counsel.
Lugo argued early for Chambers to be released on personal recognizance, and said that to place Chambers on electronic monitoring would be excessive. In the time leading up to his recent arrest, she said, he knew he was being investigated by police and stayed at his residence in Swanzey.
“He does not intend to flee and I think that’s shown by the fact that he’s remained there even aware of this investigation going on,” she said.