ST. JOHNSBURY (AP) -- A couple charged with the 2012 killing of a popular St. Johnsbury teacher will stand trial in another county because of intense pretrial publicity and other factors, a judge has ruled.
Superior Court Judge Robert Bent didn’t identify where the trials of Patricia and Allen Prue would take place. He said the location would be announced after pretrial proceedings in St. Johnsbury, The Caledonian Record reported.
The Prues have pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the killing of Melissa Jenkins, 33. The couple allegedly lured Jenkins out of her house by a false claim of distress. Her body was found in the Connecticut River, naked, strangled and beaten.
In a decision issued Friday, Bent said the extensive and thorough news coverage of the case, Jenkins’ positive reputation in the community, the outpouring of support for Jenkins’ son and the small-town nature of St. Johnsbury threatened the Prues’ constitutional right to fair trials in Caledonia County.
Bent said it would be easy to identify jurors directly affected by the death of Jenkins, a teacher at the St. Johnsbury Academy, but it’s harder to identify people indirectly affected.
"It has been said that only six degrees of separation exist between people," Bent said. "Whether or not that is true, there is most certainly a closer degree of separation within closely knit and stable communities such as those we live in here in rural Vermont.