BENNINGTON -- A former Bennington School Inc. employee, who also worked at a Department of Corrections facility, is accused of having sex with a student at the school and lying to police about her contact with children at her other job.
Alexandra Fusco, 25, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Vermont Superior Court to repeated aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual assault of a child under 16 she had care of, and lewd and lascivious conduct. The repeated assault charge carries a minimum 25 years in prison if convicted, and both sex assault charges carry life maximums. Fusco will be held without bail until a "weight of the evidence" hearing can be arranged to determine what, if any, conditions she can be released under.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Detective Anthony Silvestro, on July 16 he was notified by the state Department for Children and Families that a 16-year-old male at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Colchester had reporting having sexual encounters with Fusco while he was at the Bennington School during 2013.
According to its website, Bennington School is a boarding facility for "children and adolescents who have experienced complex emotional trauma."
Police said Fusco was employed there as a teacher's aide and residential counselor from April 1, 2013, to Oct. 10, 2013. She was let go after an incident with a runaway juvenile, which according to the 16-year-old was him.
The 16-year-old told police that Fusco had expressed interest in him and said she wished he was 18. He said that one night he was upset and Fusco said she wanted to have sex with him, which they then did in the woods nearby. He said that prior to this there was a time when Fusco showed him her breasts, and another time she made a sexual comment to him.
The boy told police that after he ran away from the school he was placed at 204 Depot Street, a residential facility in Bennington used to place juveniles. Fusco was working there, and she told him she had been fired for contacting him via Facebook while he was on runaway status. Fusco told him that if he ran away from 204 Depot Street, he could stay at her house near Mount Anthony Union High School.
He told police that while he was on runaway status in Swanton, Fusco arranged through Facebook to meet him. He claimed she drove three and a half hours to where he was and they had sex at another location. She then asked him if he wanted her to return him to Bennington, and he said no, so she left.
In March of this year, police spoke to a 17-year-old who said he knew Fusco through Bennington School and that she had sent him nude photos of herself, which he saved, then deleted, from his laptop.
According to a separate affidavit, a 17-year-old who had been placed at 204 Depot Street told police that Fusco had unbuttoned her blouse in front of him and asked him if he liked it. They had also been communicating through Snapchat, a social media service.
Another 17-year-old who had been in DOC custody said Fusco sends him messages through Facebook, which he deletes.
Police said both males are currently living in St. Albans. When police spoke to the first male, he said nothing inappropriate ever happened between him and Fusco. The other juvenile, who is friends with the first, said the other was lying to protect Fusco.
The second male said Fusco had discussed being in a relationship with him, saying he would not be in trouble for it, but she would. Nothing physical happened between them, he said. After he left the program, Fusco communicated with him through Snapchat. At one point she became worried she would lose her job and her children.
Fusco was interviewed over this, and said she was aware of a new policy forbidding 204 Depot St. employees from being friends with residents on Facebook. After the policy was implemented, she removed the two juveniles from her Friends list. She denied contacting them through other media or text messaging.
Police said cell phone records showed that Fusco had contact with one of the juveniles via text messaging.
Fusco's attorney, Frederick Bragdon, said he hopes more cell phone records will be available before the weight of the evidence hearing. They will be able to show if she was in Swanton during the time alleged, and if not then it will cast some doubt on the complaining witnesses version of events.
He argued that his client no longer works in a position of authority over children and had no criminal history. He said she is currently employed, but if that will be the case after the media reports on the matter is unclear.
State's Attorney Erica Marthage said there would be no question of Fusco being held without bail until a weight of the evidence hearing were she a male, and said that the lengthy sentences she is facing make her a risk of flight.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.