In a show of bi-partisan support, lawmakers gathered in front of the courthouse in Brattleboro to ask a question that many people throughout our region have already asked: how could the Brooke Bennett tragedy have taken place?
"We are calling for a complete investigation to answer the question that you just asked, what went wrong," said Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, R-Vermont. "We want an answer to that very important question. We are also united around the question that Senator Sears and Senator Shumlin have voiced, what can we do to protect our state? What can we do to protect the children of our state?"
12-year-old Brooke Bennett's body was found buried in a shallow grave down the road from her uncle's house in Randolph. Michael Jacques is being held on federal kidnapping charges related to her death. Jacques is already a registered sex offender. He was convicted in 1993 of aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping-- but released from probation early after successfully completing sex offender treatment.
"Why is it that with the knowledge that we had of this particular criminal, we released him early from probation? Why did we do that? We have to look at the state policies. That does not take new laws," said Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Senate President Pro Tem.
But lawmakers-- headed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears-- do plan to begin putting together a package of new laws that could be considered later this year if the governor were to call a special session.
The proposed ideas could include; longer mandatory sentences for sex crimes, a requirement that ALL sex offenders be put on the internet registry-- not just the most severe one. Also, requiring fingerprinting background checks of anyone who works with a child, possibly using chemical castration as a form of punishment, and re-examining sex offender treatment programs that are currently on the books.
"The only thing that I mention that is really off the table is civil confinement. The Senate Judiciary Committee has studied that three or four times in the past three years, it doesn't have the support in the committee. I personally think it is the wrong move. We passed a bill last year to deal with that population. We ought to let that bill work." said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Senate Judiciary Chairman.
That law-- which was signed by the governor in June of last year-- allows offenders who FAIL to comply with conditions of release/probation to be put back in jail for up to life. It also creates tighter community controls, including the use of tracking devices for offenders. It's aimed at getting molesters in sex offender treatment sooner. And, it created more special investigation units to investigate these types of crime.
Lt. Gov. Dubie is the one who first called for a special session to stiffen the current laws. The Democrats on the judiciary committee said that they need at LEAST 6 weeks to put together something they feel will receive bi-partisan support. But ultimately, it is up to the governor to call the special session. He has said he will consider it IF lawmakers agree to a package of reforms.
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:49 PM EST2014-03-09 02:49:49 GMT
The Burlington Yoga Conference began Saturday at UVM's Davis Center. The event gives participants a chance to connect the mind body and soul through workshops they may not have access to on a daily basis.More >>
The Burlington Yoga Conference began 6 years ago and has become a staple in the community.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:29 PM EST2014-03-09 02:29:17 GMT
A warning for pet owners in our region. Coyotes are on the prowl. A biologist in New Hampshire says he has received more than 10 calls recently, in the Keene, New Hampshire area, for a deer that was takenMore >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 9:21 PM EST2014-03-09 02:21:44 GMT
As spring approaches, many Vermont homeowners prepare to work on their houses - so they head to the Burlington Home Show. And many Vermont small business owners - with their products and services on displayMore >>
Many business owners at the Burlington Home Show say the new health care system in Vermont is helpful, but some say it's causing a real headache.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 8:07 PM EST2014-03-09 01:07:08 GMT
A rally at the State House in Montpelier Saturday. A passionate group of dozens of women, and men, assembled in front of the State House Saturday for the Women's March for Dignity. They were demandingMore >>
Women's March for Dignity say they are demanding lawmakers support paid sick day policies for all workers.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:21 AM EST2014-03-08 15:21:27 GMT
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries. They were injured while fighting a at the Bennett Farm on Route 15 on the Johnson-Cambridge town line. The fire started in a shed around 7:30 FridayMore >>
Two firefighters are recovering from minor injuries.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:42 GMT
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury. They immediately took to Facebook after hearing about this fire and started planning to collectMore >>
Friends are rallying around families who lost everything in an apartment building fire in St. Johnsbury.More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:20 AM EST2014-03-08 15:20:05 GMT
Reporter: "What are some of the most common burn injuries that we see with kids coming into the hospital?" Jim Esdon, Dartmouth Hitchcock Injury Prevention Center: "This time of year, the glass frontedMore >>
We've had another cold week that's left homeowners cranking the heat. But what does that mean for kids' safety?More >>
Saturday, March 8 2014 10:19 AM EST2014-03-08 15:19:21 GMT
Armed with just two L rods, 87-year-old John Wayne Blassingame starts looking for water by asking yes or no questions. "Does it go past 20 feet, does it go past 30 feet, yah," he says. The rods crossingMore >>
A national organization based in Danville says it is providing resources to people in desperate need to find water.More >>