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Jacques sentenced to life for killing niece - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Jacques sentenced to life for killing niece

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Court sketches by Matthew Sylvester Court sketches by Matthew Sylvester
Michael Jacques-Court sketches by Matthew Sylvester Michael Jacques-Court sketches by Matthew Sylvester
Court sketches by Matthew Sylvester Court sketches by Matthew Sylvester
BURLINGTON, Vt. - Loved ones and law enforcement packed a federal courtroom to close the book on one of Vermont's most notorious murders. Federal prosecutors called Michael Jacques a cold, calculated killer and serial rapist. 

"Michael Jacques was the most scheming, predatory sex offender that we have ever seen," said Tris Coffin, the U.S. attorney for Vermont.

Tuesday, Judge William Sessions, sentenced 48-year-old Michael Jacques to spend the rest of his life behind bars for the 2008 kidnapping, rape and murder of his niece, Brooke Bennett.

Brooke's mother, Cassandra Adams, confronted Jacques in court. She called him a filthy pig and said, "I miss my daughter every day. Not a day goes by I don't think of her... Today I face the monster who took her away. You coward, look at me... I hope this haunts you the rest of your life."

"I would never have thought it would have taken this long, but that's the system. In the end this is the way it worked out," said Vermont State Police Colonel Tom L'Esperance.

L'Esperance says it was a murder investigation unlike anything he had seen before. The horrific details still haunt some who worked the case.

Jacques fabricated a complex sex ring, brainwashing a girl into performing sex acts on him to protect her family. He even convinced her to help him trick Brooke into his trap.

"It was an unbelievable chain of events," said L'Esperance.

Brooke's dad, James Bennett, says Jacques sentenced his daughter to death when he lured the 12-year-old to his home with promises of a pool party. Instead Jacques drugged his niece, sexually assaulted her, smothered her with a plastic bag and buried her body in a shallow grave near his Randolph home. He then planted evidence to divert suspicion to another suspect and joined the search efforts.

Brooke's father told the court Tuesday, "I can only hope he will rot in prison, spending every day looking over his shoulder wondering if it's his last."

A plea agreement took the death penalty off the table and made Jacques ineligible for parole. The deal also prevents him from seeking an appeal. Jacques will die in federal prison.

Judge Sessions told Jacques, "This is a crime of unspeakable horror. You victimized a child with grotesque brutality. You have spent a life preying on the more vulnerable. You are a cold hearted killer. It is my intent you spend the rest of your life in prison that you are banished from our community."

Jacques faced Brooke's family and apologized, saying, "I realize few people are likely to care what I have to say... the levels of betrayal I let myself sink to are unfathomable... I was embraced by a family and I gave them tragedy and pain... Yes. I am guilty. I alone am the reason you feel pain. For that I am sorry and I am ashamed."

"Jacques grew into a predatory, intensely selfish man who raped and assaulted young Vermont women," said Coffin.

The feds say Brooke was not his only victim. They revealed that Jacques committed serial rapes in the 1980s and 90s, yet largely escaped prosecution. So did the criminal justice system fail these families?

"There were some opportunities for some intervention with him and to get him into a place where he couldn't hurt people that didn't happen or if they did happen, it didn't work," said Coffin.

Brooke's grandmother, Lucinda Milne, says it's time for her family to close this chapter, thinking less about Jacques and more about healing.

"Everything is good. It's ended. I won't have to ever see it on television or in the papers again. We can get on with our lives," said Milne.

The Bureau of Prisons will now assess Jacques' case and decide which penitentiary he'll be placed in. It's a process prosecutors say can take time and at this point they're not sure which federal facility he'll live out his days in.

Brooke Bennett's murder changed Vermont laws. Dozens of changes were made to state statutes. Click here to watch the live interview with legal expert Cheryl Hanna on whether those changes have made a difference.

Click here for complete coverage of the Brooke Bennett case.
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