Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Michael Jacques, 43, of Randolph. Jacques is the man charged with the kidnapping, rape and murder of his niece, Brooke Bennett.
The decision came more than a week ago from United States Attorney General Eric Holder but was just announced Tuesday by Vermont's U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin.
In past interviews with WCAX News, Brooke Bennett's father said he wanted to see prosecutors seek the death penalty when Jacques goes to trial. Tuesday he got his wish.
Brooke Bennett was found dead last summer-- at just 12 years old. Before the Braintree girl's body was discovered, Vermont was gripped, hoping the search for her would have a happy ending. But when grief was the result, investigators targeted the girl's uncle: Michael Jacques, a convicted sex offender.
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday years of intimidation and abuse met criteria for capital punishment because of their cruelty and premeditation.
While Jacques has yet to be tried, people we spoke to in the town Bennett was last seen alive say it was the right decision.
"I think it's wrong," said Michelle Brown of Roxbury. "Anyone who does that deserves the death penalty."
"Her own uncle, I mean, that's terrible. Sure, I think he should die," said Robert Huffman of Randolph.
"I'm a good Christian. I believe firmly in God. But I believe if you take a life, especially the life of a child so innocent, then I'm a believer in the death penalty," said Amy Slocum of Randolph.
Again this is just a preliminary step. Jacques has not been found guilty and we don't even know when he will face trial.
There was a significant series of anti-death penalty demonstrations in 2005 when Donald Fell was facing capital punishment for killing Terry King of North Clarendon. Those opponents-- including several religious leaders-- said the death penalty is no deterrent, and human beings should not turn to vengeance. We may see similar demonstrations when Michael Jacques goes to trial.
The Donald Fell case did end in a conviction and he is on death row in Indiana. Vermont has not had an execution in over 50 years and outlawed the death penalty in 1964. But both Fell and Jacques are under federal jurisdiction.
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