The story of the disappearance of Brooke Bennett in Central Vermont has taken an ugly turn. The police now say that the girl's uncle is involved in a sex ring and Monday he was formally charged with sexually assaulting another child.
According to court papers, Michael Jacques, 42, convinced a young relative that she was a part of an underground sex program called "Breckenridge" and repeatedly assaulted her over the last five years. Papers also state that Jacques told the girl that he would cut her throat if she did not go along with the program. But at this time, we do NOT know if Brooke Bennett was a victim of the same program.
Jacques did not comment to press as he was lead into Orange County District Court.
Jacques-- the last person known to have contact with Brooke before she disappeared-- was arrested Sunday for Aggravated Sexual Assault on a Minor. According to police, Jacques sexually assaulted a different relative over a five-year period of time.
"She has provided details of the events including different sexual acts that started when she was 9-years-old and continued up until a few weeks ago," said Orange County State's Attorney Will Porter.
And this is Jacques' second charge of this type. He was convicted 15 years ago of kidnapping and sexual assault... served three years, underwent sex offender treatment and had been listed as a sex offender on the state registry.
Family members of Brooke Bennett were on hand for the arraignment. However, they said little about either case.
"Brooke's mom is my niece, and that is my niece I was sitting with up there. They are sisters. This is not doing a good thing for my family. That is about all I have to say," said Brooke's great-uncle, Storm Woodard.
Jacques' wife Denise left the court without comment.
News of Jacques' possible involvement with his daughter's disappearance came as a surprise to James Bennett. Brooke's father says he knew about Jacques' past conviction on kidnapping and sexual assault and had brought it up as an issue with Brooke's mother.
"It wasn't made a big deal. He was married to Brooke's aunt and there were kids there here age and there was no indication that there was a problem of any kind, so it was never made an issue," he said. "Looking back, knowing what I do today, it would have been a lot different."
Meanwhile, state police scoured the home of Michael Jacques for most of the day. But police maintained before the court case that Monday's charge against Jacques is separate from the Brooke Bennett case. The criminal charge could land Jacques behind bars for the rest of his life.
"Maximum penalty is life imprisonment," said Porter.
Asked to confirm that the charge has nothing to do with Brooke's disappearance, Porter answered, "For all information on Brooke Bennett I would rely on any of the press releases issued by the state police and other and other law enforcement agencies."
Jacques said nothing in court, but his lawyer entered a plea of not guilty to the charge, and he's being held for lack of $250,000 bail.
In the police affidavit, it says the victim was told the president of the United States had selected her for the sex program. The president assigns a trainer, and her trainer would be Michael Jacques. And then she was abused-- almost tortured-- on a weekly basis in many different ways for the next five years. The victim testified she had met three men as part of the "Breckenridge" ring who had told her what types of sexual activity she needed to work on to graduate.
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