Year in Review: Crime - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Year in Review: Crime

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Melissa Jenkins Melissa Jenkins
Bill and Lorraine Currier Bill and Lorraine Currier
Carly Ferro Carly Ferro

2012 was filled with tragic stories that stunned the state.

In March, St. Johnsbury Academy school teacher and mother Melissa Jenkins was beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

"Melissa always had a smile and she has a beautiful smile," neighbor Diane Pierce said.

Police say Jenkins was abducted in front of her 2-year-old son by Allen and Patricia Prue.

"That little boy meant everything to her. Like I told you before, she would cut her arms off to save that little boy. I can't imagine anyone taking her away from that child," said Marion Beattie Cairns, a relative.

Jenkins body was discovered weighed down with cement blocks near a boat ramp on the Connecticut River. The Prues face first-degree and aggravated murder charges.

"I just hope that these people are put away forever who committed this crime," said Jeanne Hale of St. Johnsbury.

Vermont was rocked by a case that grabbed national headlines. WCAX News identified a suspect in the disappearance of Essex couple Bill and Lorraine Currier about a year after they disappeared.

"By all accounts they were friendly, peaceful, good people who encountered a force of pure evil acting at random," said Tris Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for Vermont.

Israel Keyes was being held in an Alaska jail on another murder. In December, police revealed Keyes was a serial killer who randomly targeted the Curriers, kidnapped and killed them.

"Bill and Lorraine Currier showed extraordinary bravery and courage and extreme dedication and love to each other. They fought to the end," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.

Authorities say Keyes is responsible for murdering at least eight people. He killed himself in his Anchorage jail cell.

"His only regret was that he didn't kill more people while he was out of jail," said Frank Russo, the assistant U.S. Attorney for Alaska.

Bath salts became a big problem in 2012.

"They can cause someone to become almost acutely psychotic. They become agitated, really violent," said Dr. Mark Depman of the Central Vermont Medical Center.

The meth-mimicking designer drugs took Vermont by surprise. At least one person died from direct use. And authorities say Jason Potvin had bath salts in his system when he lost control of his car on Interstate 89, killing himself, his girlfriend and their 8-month-old child.

A dramatic increase in abuse and hospitalizations led to new regulations.

"As fast as they change their mix, our rule will be broad enough so they are busted if they use it," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Huffing chemicals behind the wheel became a deadly problem, highlighted by a horrifying crash in Rutland.

"A decade ago we didn't hear of cases like this," Vt. State Police Lt. John Flannigan said.

Police say 17-year-old Carly Ferro of Rutland is dead because Alex Spanos took hits of compressed gas before he blacked out behind the wheel and triggered a chain reaction crash that pinned Ferro between her father's car and the building where she worked.

"So many lives were just torn apart in seconds," said Justine Taylor, Ferro's boss.

Vermont got its first drunk driving murder conviction this year after Timothy Dowd pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his role in a crash that killed Dealer.com employee Kaye Borneman.

"The message is going to be loud and clear to the rest of Vermont: When you drink and drive under these circumstances we're going to call it what it is-- murder," Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.

And as 2012 ends a new war begins in Vermont. The state plans to tackle a growing number of meth labs popping up, like one in Hinesburg that injured a teen who police say was making meth in back of his parents' house.

The state will also battle the resurgence of heroin.

"This is the single biggest threat to the state of Vermont," Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel said.

Police say the powerful drug has made a major comeback in Vermont, fueled by a change in the makeup of pain pills and cheap prices.

"There's a hell of a demand. A hell of a demand," Merkel said.

And it has dangerous ties to out-of-state gangs. The Vermont Drug Task Force says the number of heroin trafficking investigations has nearly tripled since 2009.

"I think it will be an area of focus this year," said Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker.

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