2013 Year in Review: Crime - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

2013 Year in Review: Crime

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Melissa Jenkins

Still no justice for Melissa Jenkins. The popular St. Johnsbury school teacher was allegedly lured from her home and killed by Allen and Patricia Prue. The Prues picked up new charges in 2013. They now face conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and kidnapping charges after a letter was found in Patricia Prue's jail cell describing the murder as "fun. It was like hunting, catching and killing an animal." But battles with their lawyers and where their trials will be held mean the couple won't face the jury until next year.

Brooke Bennett

In August, Michael Jacques publicly admitted to abducting, drugging, raping and killing his 12-year-old niece in 2008.

"At least now there's a chance that the family can begin to heal," Allen Gilbert of the Vt. ACLU said in August.

Prosecutors outlined the horrific details of how Jacques lured Brooke Bennett to his home, smothered her, buried her body, and then crafted an elaborate plan to cover up her murder. In exchange for a guilty plea, Jacques avoids the death penalty but forfeits his right to an appeal and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Domestic Violence

A spike in domestic violence in 2013.

A shocking murder-suicide in Essex earlier this month. Police say Ludwig "Sonny" Schumacher, 49, killed his 14-year-old son, Gunnar, before taking his own life.

"Call your loved ones, text them. Go home, give them a hug because you never know how good you have it until it's gone," said Zack Miller, a junior at Essex High School.

Sonny Schumacher was a former longtime, high-ranking member of the Vermont Guard. He was going through a bitter divorce with his wife, and court papers show he had a history of violence.


A Burlington man charged with attacking his wife with a baseball bat in September could now face life in prison. James Scarola allegedly beat Colleen Scarola, leaving the mother of two with critical head injuries. Her family and friends described her amazing strength.

"You couldn't ask for a better person," neighbor Colleen Myers said in October.

And she's made a miraculous recovery, leaving the hospital last month.

James Scarola is charged with aggravated attempted murder.


A streak of six deadly domestic violence cases in the region this summer.

In Pittsford, police say Kristen Parker was killed by her boyfriend, Christopher Sharrow, while her three kids were in the house.


In Danby, police say a woman had a restraining order but was stabbed multiple times by her ex, Aaron Allen. He only stopped when investigators say the woman's new partner shot him dead.


In Peacham, a woman managed to hide and call 911 when police say her ex, John Jackson, showed up in disguise, but he shot her new husband dead and then himself.


In Barton, Carlton Bickford, 76, shot and killed Rachel Coburn, 72, in July. Police say he told them if he couldn't have her, nobody could.

"It was quite shocking to all the neighbors and the folks in town, both in Glover and in Barton." Orleans County Prosecutor Alan Franklin said.


Troy Gray shot his wife, Rhonda, in their Fairlee home, and then shot himself. It was a terrifying end to a violent relationship. There was a restraining order against Troy Gray and he had charges pending from a July arrest.

"It's been a pretty rough summer in Northern New England," said Karen Tronsgard-Scott of the Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Pat O'Hagan

Three years after the murder of a Northeast Kingdom grandmother, no one has been charged in her death. But last month WCAX News learned that may change. Three men have admitted involvement, but state prosecutors claimed they didn't have enough evidence to go to trial.

"This case remains and has been a top priority for our office," Caledonia County Prosecutor Lisa Warren said.

Now, Warren says her office is currently reviewing the case for possible state murder charges.

"We miss our mom," Matthew O'Hagan said in November. "Thanksgiving, Christmas, it's going to be tough. It is every year."

Giovanna Yaranga

A Burlington High School teacher pleaded guilty to having sex with a 17-year-old student. Giovanna Yaranga, 44, pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Yaranga struck a deal with prosecutors, suspending her 1-4 year sentence. The plea deal keeps her out of prison as long as she obeys the terms of her probation.


And Rutland's drug and crime issues made headlines in 2013; so did the city's plan to tackle the problem.

Officials identified a hot zone of criminal activity.

"Drugs are big here and it's getting worse," Penny Burch said.

The city is looking to the feds for financial help and wants more mental health and substance abuse treatment.

"It's got to be a total attack," Rutland City Police Chief James Baker said.

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