In a show of bi-partisan support, lawmakers gathered in front of the courthouse in Brattleboro to ask a question that many people throughout our region have already asked: how could the Brooke Bennett tragedy have taken place?
"We are calling for a complete investigation to answer the question that you just asked, what went wrong," said Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, R-Vermont. "We want an answer to that very important question. We are also united around the question that Senator Sears and Senator Shumlin have voiced, what can we do to protect our state? What can we do to protect the children of our state?"
12-year-old Brooke Bennett's body was found buried in a shallow grave down the road from her uncle's house in Randolph. Michael Jacques is being held on federal kidnapping charges related to her death. Jacques is already a registered sex offender. He was convicted in 1993 of aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping-- but released from probation early after successfully completing sex offender treatment.
"Why is it that with the knowledge that we had of this particular criminal, we released him early from probation? Why did we do that? We have to look at the state policies. That does not take new laws," said Sen. Peter Shumlin, D-Senate President Pro Tem.
But lawmakers-- headed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears-- do plan to begin putting together a package of new laws that could be considered later this year if the governor were to call a special session.
The proposed ideas could include; longer mandatory sentences for sex crimes, a requirement that ALL sex offenders be put on the internet registry-- not just the most severe one. Also, requiring fingerprinting background checks of anyone who works with a child, possibly using chemical castration as a form of punishment, and re-examining sex offender treatment programs that are currently on the books.
"The only thing that I mention that is really off the table is civil confinement. The Senate Judiciary Committee has studied that three or four times in the past three years, it doesn't have the support in the committee. I personally think it is the wrong move. We passed a bill last year to deal with that population. We ought to let that bill work." said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Senate Judiciary Chairman.
That law-- which was signed by the governor in June of last year-- allows offenders who FAIL to comply with conditions of release/probation to be put back in jail for up to life. It also creates tighter community controls, including the use of tracking devices for offenders. It's aimed at getting molesters in sex offender treatment sooner. And, it created more special investigation units to investigate these types of crime.
Lt. Gov. Dubie is the one who first called for a special session to stiffen the current laws. The Democrats on the judiciary committee said that they need at LEAST 6 weeks to put together something they feel will receive bi-partisan support. But ultimately, it is up to the governor to call the special session. He has said he will consider it IF lawmakers agree to a package of reforms.
Friday, May 24 2013 11:30 PM EDT2013-05-25 03:30:10 GMT
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.State Police say Route 5 in Derby Line is closed near Caswell Avenue because of a hole in the pavement just a couple of feet over the lineMore >>
A hole in the road closed one of the routes into Canada Friday.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:17 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:17:06 GMT
It was a storm that left residents with more damage than they could have ever imagined. "The basement has about 13 inches of water," said Bob Genter of Underhill. And preparing for the aftermath of theMore >>
Flash floods left destruction across the region. And the rain is not over. Heavy downpours left some people trapped in their neighborhoods as emergency crews work to try to clear the roads.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:54:18 GMT
Vermont State Police say the following roads have been closed due to flooding:UNDERHILL: VERMONT ROUTE 15, CILLEYHILL POKER HILL ROAD NORTH UNDERHILL STATION ROAD PAIGE ROAD DAUDLIN ROAD BROWNS TRACE,More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:20 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:20:50 GMT
As the cleanup gets underway from Thursday night's flash flooding, the focus shifts now to the broader impacts of rising rivers from around the region. All the rain so far and more to come is running intoMore >>
All the rain is running into larger streams and rivers that are moving rapidly toward flood stage.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 12:44 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:44:50 GMT
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend. So far, the impact has mainly been seen in roadMore >>
Heavy rains have caused more flooding problems around our region, and the situation could get worse as the rain continues to fall over the holiday weekend.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 9:51 AM EDT2013-05-24 13:51:55 GMT
Over the river and throught the woods isn't just the way to grandma's house, its the way a lot of people are having to travel just to make it to their front door. Dormant brooks and sleepy streams turnedMore >>
Strong rains Thursday flooded roads in Essex.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:25 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:25:14 GMT
A rainy Vermont City Marathon forecast isn't slowing down runners or organizers. "Well, we're going to make some liquid sunshine out of all of this rain. That's the only choice we've got right now," saidMore >>
The countdown is on to this weekend's Vermont City Marathon and final preps are underway. Those finishing touches are coming in the rain, but organizers say the weather isn't slowing things down.More >>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:35 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:35:15 GMT
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex. The parade is held annually on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend. But after all the rain and flooding damageMore >>
The bad weather has forced the postponement of the annual Memorial Day parade in Essex.More >>