Vermont's chief medical examiner has ruled the death of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett a homicide. But so far, no charges have been filed relating to her death.
That information came out during the first federal court appearance of Brooke's uncle, Michael Jacques, 42. He is charged with kidnapping her. A judge ordered he remain in federal custody.
"A lot of work done over the holiday, lot of work left to be done," said Bill Sorrell, D-Vt. Attorney General.
Sorrell had little comment as he left federal court, but said the investigation into the disappearance and death of 12-year-old Brooke was continuing.
State sexual assault charges against her uncle, Michael Jacques, were dropped Monday so federal prosecutors could pursue their case that he kidnapped her. Jacques made his first appearance in federal court.
Prosecutor Craig Nolan outlined the feds' case against him-- saying he had used the internet to plan and carry out the kidnapping, using aliases and a juvenile to help him. Nolan said Jacques planted phony evidence-- altering Brooke's MySpace page to suggest she was meeting someone she met online, and leaving her clothing near the floating bridge in Brookfield.
Prosecutors argued the nature of the offense, the weight of the evidence, and Jacques' criminal history made him a risk of flight and a danger to the community. Jacques' lawyer did not challenge the motion, and the judge ruled him detained pending trial.
Also in court Monday-- Brooke's former stepfather, Ray Gagnon, 40, of San Antonio, Texas. His lawyer left court without comment, but told the judge she did not contest the government's motion to keep him in custody.
The judge ordered he, too, was a flight risk and could obstruct the investigation.
Both Jacques and Gagnon will be back in federal court on July 17 for probable cause hearings. We may learn more about the government's case at that time.
We also don't know how Brooke died. Prosecutors said it is a homicide, but the actual cause will require more investigation. Again, federal prosecutors have not yet charged anyone with a homicide. The only charge against Jacques right now is connected to Brooke's kidnapping.
Meanwhile, more charges were announced against Gagnon today. Prosecutors in Alabama have filed child pornography charges against him. They say he had images stored in his former home in Cullman, Alabama. It is not clear how or even if those charges will relate to the federal case against him in the Brooke Bennett case.
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