Brooke Bennett: Timeline of a Tragedy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Brooke Bennett: Timeline of a Tragedy

Brooke Bennett Brooke Bennett
June 25 surveillance photo of Michael Jacques and Brooke Bennett. June 25 surveillance photo of Michael Jacques and Brooke Bennett.
Michael Jacques Michael Jacques
Raymond Gagnon - Sketch by Armando Veve Raymond Gagnon - Sketch by Armando Veve

Timeline of a Tragedy
Click on any underlined passage for more information.

June 25
Brooke Bennett, 12, of Braintree goes missing. She was last seen at Cumberland Farms in downtown Randolph.

June 26
Police issue Vermont's first Amber Alert as part of their search for Brooke.

June 27
Vermont State Police search Sunset Lake in Brookfield, where items of Brooke's clothing had been found.

Police believe Brooke may have planned to meet up with someone she chatted with on the Web site MySpace and begin analyzing her online activity.

June 28
Family members say the constant rumors that Brooke has been found are making the situation difficult for them.

June 29
Police arrest Brooke's uncle, Michael Jacques, 42, of Randolph, on an unrelated child sex case.

June 30
Jacques is arraigned on sex assault charges. Court papers reveal the young victim is not Brooke. The victim says she was repeatedly molested and told she was selected to take part in a sex ring called Breckenridge.

Police name Jacques as a "person of interest" in Brooke's disappearance.

July 1
The affidavit containing police evidence against Jacques for the unrelated child sex charges filed June 30 becomes public.

Police reveal that Brooke's former stepfather, Raymond Gagnon, 40, of San Antonio, Texas, will face federal obstruction of justice charges for allegedly destroying evidence in the case.

Police say the search for Brooke is at a "crucial stage."

WCAX News learns more about the criminal past of Jacques. In 1993, he was convicted of kidnapping and rape. Court records show the victim was an 18-year-old girl he raped, choked, gagged and handcuffed. Police say Jacques told the victim he had raped and killed a 12-year-old girl in 1985. Police were unable to confirm that claim.

Police again stress the involvement of interactions on MySpace in the case, thrusting internet safety into the spotlight.

Brooke's family appears on the CBS Early Show to plead for her safe return.

July 2
Gagnon appears in federal court in Burlington. Court papers reveal a teenage relative of Jacques lied to investigators. She now admits to police she was with Jacques on June 25 and they went back to find Brooke after leaving her at Cumberland Farms and brought her back to Jacques' house. The teen believes Brooke is to be initiated into the Breckenridge child sex ring. She sees Brooke go upstairs with Jacques -- and doesn't see her again. Court papers also show Jacques accessed Brooke's MySpace page and made changes to it after her disappearance.

The affidavit containing the evidence against Raymond Gagnon becomes public.

6:10 p.m. - Police announce they found Brooke's body buried near Michael Jacques' home in Randolph at approximately 4:45 p.m.

Federal authorities announce they have charged Jacques with kidnapping.

The community holds a candlelight vigil to remember Brooke. Her family speaks at the event.

July 3
Federal authorities release more details about the kidnapping charges against Jacques and say it may be a death penalty case.

WCAX News uncovers information that a judge OKed Jacques' early release from probation in 2006 after he served time for rape and kidnapping-- despite strong objections from the prosecutors and the Corrections Dept.

The governor says Brooke's murderer should face the federal death penalty and calls on the legislature to strengthen Vermont's sex offender laws.

Experts offer tips to parents on how to explain the disturbing case to their children.

July 4
Funeral plans for Brooke are finalized.

July 5
Brooke's parents talk to WCAX News about their daughter and their anger over the case.

Brooke's murder sparks calls from Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie for Vermont to enact Jessica's Law.

July 7
The medical examiner rules Brooke's death is a homicide. That information comes out in federal court during the first appearance of Jacques, who is charged with kidnapping his niece. A judge orders him held. Gagnon also appears in court and is ordered held. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Alabama file child pornography charges against Gagnon.

As the community struggles to understand what happened to Brooke, a team of mental health professionals gather in Randolph to help those affected by the tragedy learn to cope.

July 8
Hundreds attend a wake for Brooke.

July 9
Nearly a thousand people turn out for Brooke's funeral in Randolph.

The Corrections Dept. admits it actually supported early probation release for Jacques after he served time for kidnap and rape. Corrections had previously insisted it opposed Jacques early release.

July 10
FBI agents sift through debris in a San Antonio, Texas landfill looking for the computer police say Gagnon asked a friend to throw out for him.

The governor orders an overhaul of Corrections Dept. procedure following news the department actually encouraged early release from probation for Jacques.

July 11
Vermont state police evaluate the state's first ever Amber Alert. It was issued after Brooke disappeared. But not everything went according to plan.

July 14
Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie calls for a special session of the legislature to strengthen Vermont's sex offender laws in reaction to Brooke's case.

July 15
Lawmakers pledge a bipartisan effort to look at Vermont's sex offender laws. Lt. Gov. Dubie and Democratic leaders of the state senate call for a complete investigation of current corrections policies and promise to start reviewing possible new laws.

July 16
The Vt. Corrections Dept. unveils changes to its sex offender surveillance plan. The changes come in light of the Brooke Bennett tragedy. Gov. Douglas says he will meet with leaders of the Vt. legislature to discuss holding a special one-day session to consider new sex offender laws.

July 17
Gagnon is indicted in Texas on charges of possession and transportation of child pornography. It was allegedly found during the investigation into Brooke's disappearance.

July 21
Gov. Jim Douglas says he will not call a special legislative session to look at sex offender laws after legislative leaders refused to agree to his package of laws.

July 24
Efforts to pass a Jessica's Law in Vermont quickly gain support across the state-- as thousands sign petitions in favor of the law that requires a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who sexually assault a child.

Key state officials consider big changes to Vermont's sex offender registry, that could include making public the identities of more than 2,000 registered sex offenders whose names are presently known only to police.

July 25
Prison officials stand by Vermont's sex offender treatment despite Jacques being a graduate of the program and his suspected involvement in Brooke's murder.

July 26
A small crowd rallies in St. Albans to call for a Jessica's Law in Vermont.

July 29
In the wake of the Brooke Bennett tragedy, child victim advocates offer advice to parents and the community on what they can do to help keep kids safe.

July 30
Prosecutors say they need more time to collect evidence for potential indictments against Jacques and Gagnon and ask to postpone their hearings.

August 6
Vermont's prosecutors seek changes in law and policy aimed at improving protection, prevention, and punishment in sex crime cases in the wake of Brooke's case.

Authorities in Texas give up the search for Gagnon's missing laptop in a San Antonio landfill. Investigators believe the computer contains evidence in the case.

August 7
The probation officer for Jacques testifies before lawmakers looking into how Vermont handles sex offenders following Brooke's death.

August 11
Jacques is assigned two more lawyers who specialize in death penalty cases.

Brooke's death sparked statewide concern about keeping kids safe. One idea that emerged is limiting where sex offenders can live. Barre and Rutland recently passed laws banning offenders from living near schools and parks. Now some Burlington City Councilors want to follow suit.

August 13
Jacques waives his probable cause hearing. The hearing would have revealed part of the government's case against Jacques, but he waived his right to have the evidence heard and did not appear in court.

August 22
Hundreds turn out for a fundraiser in Brooke's memory. Her family hopes to establish two scholarships in Brooke's name. The first ones will be awarded in 2013, the year she would have graduated from high school.

September 16
Brooke's mother speaks out at a hearing on Vermont's sex offender laws.

October 1
Jacques is indicted for Brooke's death. The indictment charges him with kidnapping with death resulting. If convicted that will make him eligible for the death penalty. Court papers reveal Brooke was drugged, sexually assaulted, and then strangled and smothered with a plastic bag.
Obstruction of justice charges against Gagnon are dropped. He will be returned to Texas to face child pornography charges.

The indictment becomes public.

March 4, 2009
Governor Douglas signs Brooke's law. The landmark bill comes in response to Brooke's rape and murder. It gives prosecutors new tools to combat sex crimes and includes tougher sentencing for sex offenders, new prevention programs and protections for victims.

Click here for complete coverage of the Brooke Bennett case.

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