Family and friends of Melissa Jenkins packed a St. Johnsbury courtroom as prosecutors elevated murder charges against Allen and Patricia Prue. Allen now faces first-degree murder. Patricia faces aggravated murder. Originally both had been charged with second-degree murder.
"What we feel is rage and anger, pain and sadness, sickness, empty," said Eric Berry, Melissa Jenkins' cousin.
Prosecutors brought the stiffer charges because they say the killing of the St. Johnsbury school teacher was a plot three months in the making. The Prues allegedly bought a cellphone and a stun gun and stalked Jenkins' home and the boat launch where her body was found. The Prues are accused of luring Jenkins to an isolated location in March, where they allegedly beat, choked and shocked Jenkins with a stun gun, sexually assaulted her, and then dumped her body in the Connecticut River. This all took place in front of her 2-year-old son, Ty.
What helped prosecutors build their case were pieces of physical evidence and jailhouse confessions allegedly made by Patricia Prue. She reportedly told inmates Jenkins prevented Allen from having friends by complaining about his snowplow business, and that she was jealous of her blonde hair. Other quotes from things she told inmates include:
"took turns strangling her and beating"
"to Bad we did'nt take the Little Boy with us, would have been Been so fun Killing him (sic)"
Prosecutors also obtained a shredded handwritten note from Patricia Prue that included quotes like "We picked her because" ... "It was fun."
"Jailhouse snitches as we know them are common," said Jerry O'Neill, a former federal prosecutor.
O'Neill says based on what he read in the affidavit, Patricia Prue's comments to other inmates, especially about the sexual assault, were needed to elevate the charges. O'Neill says the jury will have to weigh how credible the statements are.
"Why are they doing it in the first place? Some people may not be looking for anything, those people will have credibility. The other question is whether law enforcement can corroborate what they are saying. And lastly, are other people independently saying the same thing? Then it's up to the jury," O'Neill said.
"As affidavits read, this is one of the more disturbing ones I have come across in a long time," said Tom Powell, a forensic psychologist.
Powell says even though Patricia Prue has maintained her innocence to police, only she can answer why she allegedly confessed to other inmates.
"For a number of reasons, it was just bragging and trying to show off, lay claim to be the most notorious person on the block. The other may be the need to get it out; people need to confess to clear their conscience," Powell said.
But for the family of Melissa Jenkins the upgraded murder charges are kind of irrelevant at this point.
"What's the justice for Ty? He doesn't have his mom anymore," Berry said. "To me, there's nothing we can do, nothing any penalty they can serve that will bring Ty's mother back. It's pitiful."
The Prues both pleaded not guilty to the upgraded murder charges. If convicted, Allen Prue faces 35 years to life in prison. Patricia Prue is looking at life in prison without parole.
The affidavit says Patricia Prue talked about killing Melissa Jenkins' son, Ty. But according to what Patricia Prue told the inmate who relayed the information to police, they did not want to hurt the boy since he was awake.
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