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, April 18 2014 8:54 AM EDT2014-04-18 12:54:02 GMT
A sugaring season was cut short in Swanton overnight after a shed caught fire. Fire officials tell us they got the call around 1:30 a.m. Friday for the sugarhouse fire on Woods Hill Road. They say theMore >>
A sugaring season was cut short in Swanton overnight after a shed caught fire.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 8:46 AM EDT2014-04-18 12:46:49 GMT
As the temperatures start to climb, it's your last weekend to ski in New Hampshire. The three remaining areas that are open -- Loon Mountain, Cannon Mountain, and Bretton Woods -- are planning to closeMore >>
As the temperatures start to climb, it's your last weekend to ski in New Hampshire.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 8:45 AM EDT2014-04-18 12:45:18 GMT
This week, the first line of emergency responders are being recognized for their work. National Telecommunicators Week ends Saturday. It's a national week honoring the men and women who work around-the-clockMore >>
This week, the first line of emergency responders are being recognized for their work.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:04 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:04:40 GMT
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road. Investigators say 63-year-old Eric Ladd was walking slipped and hitMore >>
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:00:59 GMT
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire. On Wednesday workers were doing spring clean-up at Wheelock park when they found a 55-gallon drumMore >>
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:58 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:58:40 GMT
There's been a tragedy on the Burlington beltway Thursday night. Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltway. The name has been releasedMore >>
Burlington Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltline.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:08:04 GMT
Police say two people found dead at a home in Stowe are believed to have died in a murder-suicide. Police are still not releasing their names or the cause of death, but they say the victims are adults. StoweMore >>
A Stowe couple is dead after what police say was a murder-suicide. The news came as a shock to neighbors who say they never noticed any red flags. More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-04-17 22:58:26 GMT
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury. Timothy Foley did appear in court Thursday in Middlebury. He wasn't there last time,More >>
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury.More >>