5-day Herring sentencing hearing begins Monday

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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) A weeklong sentencing hearing begins in Barre Monday for Jody Herring, the woman who killed a state social worker and three relatives in August 2015.

Jody Herring-File photo

Herring pleaded guilty in July to one count of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder. Prosecutors say Herring gunned down Lara Sobel as she was leaving work at the Department for Children and Families office in Barre.

Before going to Barre, Herring also admitted to shooting her two cousins, Regina Herring and Rhonda Herring, and her aunt, Julie Falzarano, at their Berlin home.

Herring told police she was angry that her family had reported her to DCF, and that DCF then took her two young children. Sobel had worked on her case.

Herring originally pleaded not guilty to the murder charges. Both the state and Herring's attorney pushed for a plea deal, leaving the possibility of parole on the table.

"In all kinds of cases, both sides will weigh what the possibilities of loss are against the possibilities of what the potential agreement is," said Tris Coffin, a former U.S. attorney for Vermont, and legal expert for WCAX.

Vermont Superior Court Judge John Pacht has been the judge on the case and is expected to decide on Herring's punishment by the end of the week.

"I think that the rarity and the extreme nature of the conduct, and balancing the factors that may have played into it will make it a real challenge for the judge," Coffin said.

To make matter more complicated, Herring's attorney argued that his client's mental illness issues left her unfit to stand trial.

"Her mental state and the sort of anguish about her situation -- they will argue -- played some role in the offense," Coffin said.

In court Monday, Coffin expects emotional statements from the victim's families, and possibly Herring herself.

"I think one of the key things that a judge will key into particularly in this horrible violent crime is the impact on the victims," Coffin said.

Because Herring murdered four people, she will face a minimum of 20 years. Coffin expects the state to ask for life without parole and says there is a pretty good chance that is what they'll get.