Purported widow of murder victim charged with fraud
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | June 15,2013
BRATTLEBORO — The purported widow of murder victim Michael Martin — who was shot to death by a disgruntled employee at the Brattleboro Food Co-op two summers ago — has been charged with fraud for allegedly falsifying a marriage certificate and claiming Martin’s insurance benefits.
Jennifer D. Dusenbery, 37, formerly of Dummerston, left Vermont last year for Indiana where her young children live while she was under investigation by Vermont State Police.
But according to documents on file in Windham County criminal court, the case languished until this spring, when Zurich Insurance Co. finally came forward with information that she had received close to $70,000 based on the falsified marriage certificate she had submitted to it.
Judge David Suntag recently signed an arrest warrant for Dusenbery, whose last known address was in Barea, Calif.
Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver said her office would seek to extradite Dusenbery, but that her whereabouts are currently unknown.
Martin, 59, a native of Waterbury, had started working at the food co-op in 2006, to manage the food store which was undergoing a major new construction project. He had offered longtime store employee Richard Gagnon, the wine and beer manager, a severance package a few days before Gagnon came into the store and shot Martin in the back of the head as he sat at his desk.
Martin’s murder stunned the Brattleboro community, prompting a large public vigil and much soul-searching in the community.
Gagnon has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for shooting Martin, and is serving a 20-year sentence.
Dusenbery had been involved with the state police and Shriver’s office before the fraud investigation began last summer. She had filed a complaint against her ex-boyfriend alleging that she had been sexually assaulted by him, Shriver said.
But Shriver said she never filed charges against the man, who has since moved from Putney to Rutland, because of Dusenbery’s credibility issues.
Court records also revealed that Dusenbery had once been charged with assaulting Martin with a candlestick in April 2009. Charges of aggravated domestic assault were reduced to simple assault, and received a suspended 15- to 20-day sentence.
Shriver also said that the Brattleboro justice of the peace who signed the marriage certificate after the fact when she did not perform a wedding ceremony for Martin and Dusenbery on Halloween in 2010 — nine months before Martin was murdered — would not face criminal charges because she had no intent to defraud anyone of anything, despite filing a false document.
Mary Cain, who at one time worked for Dusenbery, had been contacted by her and asked her to sign the certificate after Martin died. Cain told police she signed the certificate, and back dated it to Oct. 31, 2010, as a notary, just ascertaining what Dusenbery said.
But interviews conducted by Vermont State Police Trooper Tyson Kinney with two other town clerks, who have extensive experience with marriage certificates, said that Cain should have known better and that she had performed wedding ceremonies before.
Dusenbery told police, as well as the Dummerston town clerk, that Martin and herself had performed their own wedding ceremony during a party at their home on Oct. 30, 2010. Dusenbery and Martin had taken out a marriage certificate in October, the town clerk told police, and Dusenbery had started using the name Martin, according to Michael Martin’s obituary, which listed their wedding date as Oct. 29, 2010.
But according to court records, Martin was still legally married to another woman, Lisa Nisca, who lives in New York state, whose attorney had failed to file the final agreement in their divorce.
According to court records, Martin’s insurance policy should have been paid out to minor children still living at home, or his legally married wife. Nisca has since filed a claim.
Martin, the father of six children and five stepchildren, had been married five times.
If convicted, Dusenbery could face 10 years in prison.