Community members demand justice for Ralph Jean-Marie

Published: Apr. 15, 2023 at 6:18 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Three years ago this week, Ralph Jean Marie went missing from the Hollow Inn & Motel in Barre. Police have said they suspect foul play, but so far, the investigation is coming up cold. No body has been found and no one has been charged. Community members say they don’t think the barre city police department is doing enough.

“If I went missing, who would come looking for me? Who would help?” Trevon Groves, a member of Justice for Ralph said. Trevon Groves saw the news of the disappearance of Ralph Jean-Marie three years ago. He says the apparent lack of effort by police to search for a black man is what drew him to join the search.

“Ralph is not my family. This is not a close acquaintance to me,” Groves continued. “He is not someone I sat down and talked to everyday, but why is it i seem to care more than people who are supposed to serve and protect?” At Friday, Groves and several others from the group shared concerns about how police have handled the investigation, a lack of communication with the family, and potential discrimination.

“He wasn’t up here doing the same thing he came up here to do,” said Dylan Riley, one of Jean-Marie’s close friends. “He made a family. He made a life for himself. People get placed in a category, and once that happens, it’s like no matter what happens to that person, they’re not going to be important enough for someone to pull together resources.” Justice for Ralph says they want police to step up, by reinterviewing witnesses, being transparent with findings, and calling in additional resources. They added it’s hard to believe police have found absolutely nothing in the past three years.

Group members add they have sought out and paid for their own resources to aid the investigation, such as equipment “Why is the community having to do the job we pay you to do? Why do we have to do this?” said Crystal Riley.

I reached out to Barre City Police Chief Braedon Vail for an update on the investigation. He responded in part: “The investigation is still active and has been. Tips have come in sporadically and are looked into as they come in. Unfortunately, there has not been anything substantive enough that has been able to move things forward, as of yet.” He added VSP assisted with the crime scene search at Hollow Inn & Motel, and their dive team was utilized for one area, but they are not currently involved. No cadaver dogs have been utilized.

Justice for Ralph is also asking BPD to release security video of the day Jean-Marie went missing from Hollow Inn & Motel. However, Vail says the department does not have a copy of the video, but that an investigator on scene reviewed it.

“At the end of the day, this is a human being. When a human being is neglected and a human being is harmed, we as human beings need to make sure there is justice.”

The few people who did show up to remember Jean-Marie on Friday afternoon say the lack of public officials in attendance was disappointing. No one from the Barre City Police Department, State’s Attorney’s Office, or Mayor’s Office attended, though the group says they were all invited

Vail said he had a prior commitment and was not consulted in the scheduling of this. but anyone is welcome to schedule a meeting with him about this.