July 2 marks exactly one year since investigators found the body of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett buried in a shallow grave in Randolph. News of her murder came as a devastating shock to her family who held out hope during the one week search that she would be found alive.
A year later Brooke's parents are still struggling with the reality that she is gone, but both have also channeled their grief toward positive changes.
Her father, Jim Bennett, wears a purple bracelet and a pin bearing a smiling portrait of Brooke every day to keep her close. Purple was her favorite color. Jim says he cannot believe a year has passed.
"I still keep expecting the phone to ring and her be on the other end," he says.
Jim visits his daughter's grave several times a month. It sits alone in a quiet corner of a cemetery in Royalton, marked by a beautiful stone donated by local companies. Friends and family members have left letters and gifts.
Shortly after his daughter's murder Jim established the Brooke Bennett Memorial Foundation. He hopes to raise enough money for a scholarship in her honor and to buy a kit that he can take to schools that will make fingerprint and ID cards for kids.
"It will give me something else to focus on," he says. "And it'll help other people, give them information they may need someday."
While Brooke's father chose to deal with his grief privately and channel his efforts towards the Brooke Bennett foundation, her mother went public, working with the legislature to pass tough new sex offender laws.
"I've seen it on the news where they say, 'This person's been charged with Brooke's Law,' and I'm like, 'Go get em girl!'," says Cassandra Adams.
Cassandra says she still struggles with guilt over allowing Brooke to spend time around her accused killer, Michael Jacques, who is also a convicted sex offender.
"I still haven't forgave myself," she says.
Cassandra recently got two tattoos as a way to keep her daughter with her. She now has Brooke's name permanently etched on her wrist. On her leg, she proudly displays a poem: If tears could build a stairway in memory's lane I'd walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.
"That's so when people read it I can tell them that's what I would do," says Cassandra. "Because if I had stairs right now I would, if it took me a year to walk up there, I would do it and bring her back."
Both Brooke's mother and father are anxious for her accused killer's trial to start. Jim says he is eager to know everything he can about how and why his daughter was murdered. Cassandra is eager for the day she can confront Michael Jacques in court.
"I want that opportunity to face him and tell him exactly what I think," she says.
Jim says he has nothing to say Jacques.
"I think I'd be better off to stay away and let the system take care of him."
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