With their hands on their hearts, four of Pat O'Hagan's children headed back to the Sheffield school where their mother volunteered.
Three years ago O'Hagan was murdered. Her killers have yet to be prosecuted, but on Friday the Miller's Run School came together to celebrate the life she lived, dedicating its new playground in her honor. "Mary Pat O'Hagan is an excellent example of good citizenship," said Patrick Ham, a Miller's Run teacher.
"She loved every minute up here. She built a great life for herself, with great people and great friends," said Maureen O'Hagan, O'Hagan's daughter.
Friends filled the school's cafeteria Friday. The Massachusetts grandmother retired to Vermont in 1995, quickly immersing herself in several of Sheffield's community activities -- from its chicken pie supper to field days and the historical society. "We learned later in life what it means to give back to a community. Our mother taught us that and it's a lesson you all could learn and bring forward for a long time," said Shawn O'Hagan, O'Hagan's son.
O'Hagan's kids say their mother's horrific death has brought them closer to this community that meant so much to her. "I'd bring my kids and she'd have one activity after another and another and loved to introduce us to all of her friends," said Matt O'Hagan, O'Hagan's son.
Friday's dedication was meant to be a happy occasion, honoring O'Hagan's contributions to Sheffield and the Northeast Kingdom. But under the smiles, frustration simmers. Several in town are losing hope O'Hagan will ever get justice.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: Three years later, does it get any easier. Is there any closure for you guys?
Mark O'Hagan: It's not closure. She's gone. She's not coming back. But it's just an ongoing process. It's a mourning process and because of the way it happened, it's irregular it's interruptive, so to speak. There are still questions unanswered. That part's difficult.
"This case remains and has been a top priority for our office and it will continue to be a high top priority case. And it's understandable the frustration the family has felt -- I understand that," said Caledonia County State's Attorney Lisa Warren.
Warren says her office is currently reviewing the case for possible state murder charges. Three suspects surfaced during an unrelated federal firearms case. According to court documents, Michael Norrie, Richard Fletcher and Keith Baird all made partial confessions in connection with O'Hagan's death, but due to conflicting accounts and a lack of evidence state prosecutors have not moved forward yet. Now Warren says she's asked Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage to weigh in on the evidence. "She's from a different part of the state, so I thought a fresh set of eyes couldn't hurt. It's not unusual in a case of this magnitude and seriousness to do that," Warren said.
Warren says when the review's complete she will make a decision on state charges. But Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell already has his mind made up."In our view, right now, we don't have enough evidence to go forward," Sorrell said.
The AG and state's attorneys have equal authority to prosecute cases under Vermont law. Sorrell maintains unless and until police gather more evidence, his office will not charge anyone with murder. "It's not out of laziness. It's not out of fear of bringing or trying tough cases. But if we bring a case, we want to win. We want to see justice be done," he said.
And so does O'Hagan's family -- as well as the community she left behind. "It makes it a lot easier knowing that everyone is supporting us and they're not forgetting what my mother did and accomplished up here," Shawn O'Hagan said.
Friday, March 7 2014 7:28 PM EST2014-03-08 00:28:44 GMT
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