1st meeting of task force investigating former Vt. orphanage

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Did murder happen at the former St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington? That's what a joint task force that met Monday for the first time hopes to figure out.

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George says the meeting was mostly to figure out the different roles and what the next steps will be.

Our Avery Powell also spoke with Katelin Hoffman, who lived in the orphanage in the 1970s. She said she hopes state leaders not only hold a magnifying glass up to the orphanage but also to themselves.

"There was just a general overall feeling of fear," Hoffman said.

Hoffman says being on the grounds of the former St. Joseph's Orphanage has a different feeling now that the site has been turned into an apartment complex. But the memories still linger.

"The second window this way was where my bed was. Sister Julius was a really mean nun. My first morning there she literally beat a girl off the walls," Hoffman said.

Hoffman lived in the orphanage during the 1970s. At one point, she even tried to kill herself.

Reporter Avery Powell: Do you think that was because of this place?
Katelin Hoffman: Oh, definitely, yes. I just couldn't take the things anymore... I had to participate in the abuse of a small child and that was just too much for me and I did it to protect him because I thought the nun would hurt him worse if I didn't.

Now, a joint city and state task force hopes to find out why nothing was done criminally about these allegations.

"I can't fully answer for you what happened back in the '90s, when and why these institutions at that time didn't act. We will seek to answer those questions," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

But as the task force met for the first time Monday, Hoffman says it's just one step toward closure for her and others like her.

"Those of us who were wards of state-- they were responsible for us," she said.

Hoffman says she and some other people who used to live at St. Joseph's are also getting together to come up with questions to ask the bishop, as well.

Victims who want to communicate to the task force, like Hoffman, have already started to fill out the form on the police department's website which asks people about their experiences at St. Josephs.

No word yet on when the task force will meet next. State's Attorney Sarah George says the task force hopes to appoint a media liaison to communicate more with us soon.