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Pownal man pleads not guilty to murder

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 5:34 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 7:55 PM EST
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BENNINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Pownal man has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. If he’s convicted, he could face 35 years to life in prison.

The attack happened in Bennington just after 11 a.m. Monday. Police say Darren Pronto of Pownal waited for Emily Hamann on the Riverwalk path, where he killed her by slitting her throat with a knife.

Bennington community members visited the scene throughout the day to honor Hamann’s life.

“We figured we’d come out and pay our respects and let her know that we care,” said Daneen Darling of Bennington.

Darling and some friends created a memorial on the rock next to where police say Emily Hamann was attacked by Darren Pronto.

“My daughter knew her and a lot of people knew her. She had a young child,” Darling said. “It’s sad our community is coming to this. You know, it’s really sad and I’m glad they caught him.”

Many community members using the path stopped to tell me how sad this is. The flowers laid on top of the rock are actually from two men who did not know the victim, but tell me things like this don’t happen in Bennington.

“As I looked out here, I thought it was a couple of guys messing around at eleven o’clock in the morning,” Maureen Wilt said.

Wilt lives in the building across from where Hamann was killed.

Wilt says she looked out her bedroom window and happened to see part of the attack. She didn’t understand what was happening until it was over and Hamann was on the ground.

“It’s just terrible,” Wilt said. “I’m having a hard time with it.”

“It’s really hard to put words on a crime like this happening in broad daylight in downtown Bennington,” Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage said.

When police found Pronto a few streets over and asked him what happened, he told them, “Oh, over there, I did what I did.”

The affidavit says Pronto’s sister called police saying he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and this weekend carved “Murder Time” into a wall at his mother’s home.

Marthage says she is not surprised the community is shaken by this news. But she says there is no threat to the public.

“There are no ongoing concerns for downtown Bennington or the Riverwalk at this point,” Marthage said.

Police say Pronto knew Hamann but prosecutors aren’t saying how.

Meanwhile, Daneen Darling says a group is trying to plan a candlelit vigil so people can share stories about Hamann and grieve together.

Related Story:

Police investigating deadly attack in Bennington

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