Donna Fox was one of many who packed a St. Johnsbury courtroom to see if Benjamin Berwick, 51, would admit to killing his estranged wife, Anna, three years ago.
"I still can't believe it," Fox said. "I still look at the phone every morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. She always called me, we always got together and had coffee."
But prior to grabbing a cup of coffee on that snowy December morning back in 2009, Anna agreed to meet her estranged husband in the parking lot of the Green Mountain Mall.
"It was a meeting that Anna was set to request back clothing from her deceased son," Caledonia County State's Attorney Lisa Warren said.
Anna's son had recently died of cancer and she wanted a fire helmet that belonged to him. But Benjamin Berwick apparently had another reason for meeting. The two were in the process of separating. Anna claimed she could no longer take being the victim of domestic violence.
"He slit her throat," Warren said. "There were defensive wounds on her hands."
Vt. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Manley: Did you do that?
Benjamin Berwick: Yes.
Judge Manley: To the charge of second-degree murder, how do you plead?
Benjamin Berwick's second-degree murder trial was scheduled to begin next week. If convicted, he faced 20 years to life in prison. Under the terms of the plea deal he will serve 18 years behind bars. The plea agreement must be approved by the judge. A formal sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.
Anna Berwick's family declined to speak on camera, but told WCAX the sentence is too light. Prosecutors say it is consistent with other second-degree murder convictions.
"I do believe it addresses public safety," Warren said. "He will have various conditions of probation which we believe are very sufficiently tight, that will keep him under the tight and watchful eye of probation and parole including electronic monitoring."
Donna Fox says she misses sipping coffee and margaritas with Anna Berwick, along with their dinner dates to Chili's and shopping trips to the Christmas Tree Shop. She, too, agrees the sentence is too light, but also says no sentence would be enough.
"No amount of time is going to bring Anna back," Fox said. "She was like a sister to me."
If Berwick violates his probation after his release, he must return to prison for five years, or could be resentenced.
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 4:14 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:14:58 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:48 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:48:57 GMT
The heavy rains have left a lot of people with flooded basements. We want to remind people of potential dangers before tackling that mess. First, shut off power to all basement appliances. Don't touchMore >>
The heavy rains have left a lot of people with flooded basements. We want to remind people of potential dangers before tackling that mess.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 4:24 PM EDT2013-05-24 20:24:06 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:55 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:55:28 GMT
Four people behind bars this morning, charged with kidnapping and burglary. Brattleboro police say just before 1 p.m. Thursday, a group of people forced two women into a car at gunpoint. Police caughtMore >>
Four people behind bars, charged with kidnapping and burglary.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:58 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:58:10 GMT
A Massachusetts man is dead after an ATV crash in Concord. Police say just before 10 p.m. Thursday night, 42-year-old Frank Baker Junior was driving an ATV off of Leonard Hill Road when he lost controlMore >>
A Massachusetts man is dead after an ATV crash in Concord, Vt. More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:49 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:49:53 GMT
It's getting more expensive to take out the trash in Chittenden County. The Chittenden Solid Waste District announced this week that it is raising tipping fees by 22 percent to make up for declining revenues. TheMore >>
It's getting more expensive to take out the trash in Chittenden County.More >>