Sex offender faces sentencing in niece's killing
MONTPELIER (AP) - A convicted sex offender who killed his 12-year-old niece after luring her to his house with a ruse about a pool party is due to be formally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Michael Jacques, who pleaded guilty last summer to kidnapping with death resulting and other charges, will be sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Burlington. In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors dropped plans to seek the death penalty for the 2008 killing of Brooke Bennett, of Braintree.
Prosecutors say Jacques used a 14-year-old girl he had been sexually abusing since she was 9 to lure Brooke to his home by having the girl send Brooke a text message purporting to be from a boy she was interested in. They say Jacques drugged, sexually assaulted and suffocated Brooke with a plastic bag after she disappeared from a convenience store in Randolph on June 25, 2008.
Jacques then created an online trail making it look like Brooke was the victim of someone she'd met on the Internet and left her underwear on the side of a dirt road with another male's DNA, prosecutors said.
Brooke's body was found in a shallow grave near Jacques' home after a weeklong search.
The Rev. Tom Harty, who performed Brooke's funeral, said in many ways, Randolph and area towns will never be the same. But, he said, parents and teachers are beginning to loosen the grip they had been keeping on their children since the seventh-grader's death.
"We're not back to the world we had before. We now have a new reality," Harty said.
Brooke's disappearance prompted Vermont's first Amber Alert. Less than a year later, the state Legislature passed a new law cracking down on sex crimes. The law increased penalties in some cases and expanded special investigative units across the state.
Jacques, who was married to the sister of Brooke's mother, was convicted in 1993 of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a female co-worker at a West Rutland business. He was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison and completed the sex offender treatment program in 2006.
Jim Bennett, Brooke's father, has said he saw Jacques' name on Vermont's sex-offender registry in the mid-2000s when he had been training as a town constable and tried to discourage the girl from visiting his home. He said he wonders if his daughter would still be alive if he had pushed harder to keep her away from Jacques.
Jacques' trial was within weeks of starting last year when attorneys announced a plea deal in the case.
It's unclear if Jacques will make a statement at his sentencing. His attorneys have declined to comment.
Jacques is being held at the federal Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center in New York.
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