BRATTLEBORO -- On Feb. 16, 2000, the Northeast Kingdom was shaken to its core after it learned a beloved school teacher had been murdered early that morning while grading papers. What proved to be even more startling was that she was shot in the head with a .22 rifle by a 17-year-old boy whom she had taken into her home in West Burke as a foster child three years before.
"What I did was horrible, but I’m not that person anymore. I’ve done a lot of things to change that," said Scott Favreau, who is now 31 and living in Brattleboro. "I made a mistake. I’ll move forward and do the best I can." Favreau pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing Victoria Campbell Beer, a Lyndon school teacher who was 44 at the time of her death. He was caught by police about an hour after the killing, following a high-speed chase. Tashia L. Beer, then 14, of West Burke, who was the victim’s step-child, was also charged with first-degree murder. She was accused of convincing Favreau to kill Campbell Beer.
Prior to the murder, Favreau had been in trouble with the law, including being prosecuted for stealing a dirt bike and for burglarizing a nearby school and stealing drugs from the nurse’s room.
"Everyone makes mistakes. What you learn from them is what counts," said Favreau, during an interview at the Reformer. "People can change. Nobody is the same if they don’t want to be." Favreau, who was released from prison in April 2013, works at a local business and recently moved in with his girlfriend and her 7-year-old son.
"She and her son, they keep me wanting to better myself. He has grown up without a father and has taken a liking to me. He wants me to adopt him and call me dad," said Favreau. "I grew up without a father. Looking back, I can see some of the issues I had may have been due to the lack of a male figure in my life." Melissa Barton, Favreau’s probation and parole officer, said he is on furlough, which means he is serving an incarcerative sentence in the community. Barton said Favreau has not committed any violations since he was released to the community, and if he does, he will immediately go back to prison. "He’d already extensively began to address his responsibilities while he was in the facility, and it’s up to him to continue to take responsibility and really attempt to make amends for his actions now that he is in the community," said Barton.
Eventually, the state’s parole board may take him off furlough, but he will be under the supervision of the Department of Corrections for the rest of his life. Barton said Favreau’s next date before the parole board is April 2015. Prior to pleading guilty, Favreau entered into an agreement to testify against his step-sister. The agreement called for a sentence of 17 years to life, with the possibility he could be released early due to good behavior.
"Well, she kept bugging me about killing her, about killing Vicki," Detective Lt. Lionel Bachand reported Favreau as telling him during an interview following the murder. "I told her, ‘Yeah, I’d do it,’ just to get her off my back." But when Favreau was called to testify against Beer, he refused to do so.
"I don’t want to address the reasons I didn’t testify," he told the Reformer. "I don’t want to comment on that." During Beer’s sentencing hearing, Alan Campbell, the victim’s brother, told the court he had reluctantly supported the plea agreement made by former Caledonia State’s Attorney Dale Gray with Favreau, but he "got burned" afterward when it was revealed Favreau could actually serve less time than Gray had planned on and could be released from prison after serving 10 years of his 17-year sentence.
Campbell described Gray’s mistake as "inconceivable." Campbell was also critical of the presiding judge, Dennis Pearson, for not holding Favreau accountable for his refusal to testify against Beer.
When the Reformer reached out to them via Victim Services, Campbell Beer’s family declined to comment.
Favreau has had no contact with Campbell Beer’s family, except for a letter of apology he wrote and had delivered to them.
"I apologized for taking this person away from them and putting them through what they went through. What I did was wrong. Whether they accept that, is out of my control. But I want them to understand that I know what I did and I know how it affected them." Favreau, who declined to have his picture taken for this article, told the Reformer he decided to go public because he wanted to thank the many people who are dedicated to helping him stay on the straight and narrow.
"In helping me, they’re helping the community." Favreau did a prison tour of sorts -- shuttling between Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia -- before coming back to Vermont and being entered into the state’s restorative justice program. But before his return to Vermont, Favreau said he shut down and attempted to bury his emotions, what he called "Putting things away not paying attention to them." "The path I was on the majority of my prison time wasn’t the right path. For the longest time, it was just denial. I didn’t want to face what I had done." Then, with the help of a victim’s advocate, Favreau said he was able to "remove the barriers and look at what I did. The feelings I had bottled up finally came out. To be able to admit the things that we do and be able to accept what we do, for me that was really hard." Favreau, who is prohibited from returning to Caledonia County, or even leaving the area without permission from his parole officer, has been working with the Brattleboro Restorative Justice Center since his release from prison. "I wouldn’t have been able to make the changes without the help of the Brattleboro Restorative Justice Center," he said. "A lot of people influenced me to make changes. I had help seeing why things I was doing were wrong." Ninety-five percent of the offenders who are in jail will one day be released into the community, said Larry Hames, the executive director the Brattleboro Restorative Justice Center, which has two paid staffers and more than 50 volunteers. Each participant is assigned a three-person team, called a Circle of Support and Accountability.
"Offenders have the right and obligation to make amends or to repair their harms as much as possible," said Hames, who was present during the Reformer’s interview of Favreau. "The best way Scott or anyone else can repair the harm they’ve done is to never do anything to harm anyone in the future in any way." "I would just like to live as a productive and active member of the community," said Favreau. "Make things as right as I can." During the court proceedings leading up to his sentencing, a forensic psychiatrist testified that Favreau had suffered "horrendous abuse," in childhood: physical, sexual and emotional. The doctor diagnosed him as having post-traumatic stress disorder and said he was suffering from depression, and she indicated he may have fetal alcohol syndrome, too.
"I felt alone," Favreau told the Reformer. "I was surrounded by family and friends but I still felt alone. I didn’t know how to ask for help. Things snowballed until they got out of control. I was just a dumb-ass teenager." With the help of Victim Services and the Restorative Justice Center, Favreau said now he is not afraid to ask for help.
"No matter who or where you are are, if you are willing to change and work on yourself, there are people willing to help you," said Favreau.
While in prison, he developed his artistic skill and now creates works of photo realism, primarily with charcoal and graphite. That was one of the reasons Brattleboro was chosen for his reintegration, because of its reputation as an arts community.
"Brattleboro is definitely unique," said Favreau. "So many people have opened their arms to me and given to me." Favreau said he is now focused on being a contributing member of the community, a good partner and a good role model for his girlfriend’s son.
"My victim and my victim’s family motivated me to be a better person. I did it in honor of my victim and her family. I promised to be a better person." He said his advice for anyone on the edge of doing something they might live to regret was simple.
"Take a deep breath before you react and look for a more prosocial way out.
Asking for help is by far the most underrated thing."
Source material for this story was graciously contributed by The Caledonian-Record in St. Johnsbury. Todd Wellington, Caledonian-Record staff writer also contributed to this report.