Jacques pleads guilty to kidnapping, killing niece
STAFF FILE PHOTO
Michael Jacques, 42, of Randolph Center appears Monday, June 30, 2008, in Chelsea District Court in Chelsea. Jacques pleaded guilty today to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing his 12-year-old niece, avoiding a federal death penalty trial.
By PETER HIRSCHFELD
Vermont Press Bureau
MONTPELIER - One of the highest-profile criminal cases in Vermont's history neared its close Tuesday morning when Michael Jacques confessed to sexually assaulting and murdering his 12-year-old niece after launching a twisted scheme to lure her into his Randolph home.
The 47-year-old Jacques that walked into U.S. District Court Tuesday was almost unrecognizable from the man arraigned in the same courtroom five years prior. Noticeably heavier, and wearing a green sweater over a crisp white dress shirt open at the collar, Jacques entered guilty pleas to six federal counts, including kidnapping with death resulting.
Under the terms of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, Jacques will serve life in prison with no possibility of parole. In exchange for his guilty pleas, prosecutors agreed to drop their bid for the death penalty.
The murder of Brooke Bennett in 2008 shocked the conscience of a state and spawned a slate of new laws aimed at thwarting the predation of Vermont children. In a spare, 10-minute presentation to U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan offered new details about a case that first entered the public arena when Brooke Bennett was reported missing on the night of June 25, 2008.
Seven days later, police would discover the Braintree girl's body in a shallow grave off a logging road about one mile away from Jacques' residence.
About a dozen family members of the victim sat quietly in a third-row bench reserved for them, and watched on as Sessions asked if the allegation against him was true.
"I'm afraid it is sir," Jacques responded.
Asked whether the government could prove it's case against Jacques', the one of defendant's lawyers said "without a doubt your honor."
As Nolan's narrative conveyed Jacques' plot had its roots in a phone call made to another girl in 2003, in which a man with scary voice commanded a 9-year-old girl to, according to Nolan Tuesday, "hurry to her bedroom and look under her pillow."
There, the victim, referred to as "J1" in court documents, found a note informing her she was one of three recruits selected by the "Breckenridge Club" to enter a "sex training" program for young girls. According to Nolan's account Tuesday, the note told J1 that the first girl to perform oral sex would live.
"The other two would be killed," Nolan said. The note indicated that Jacques would be her "trainer."
So began a five-year psychological capture in which J1 was ordered to perform sex acts with Jacques, lest "Breckenridge agents" kill her and her family.
On at least two occasions, according to Nolan, family pets were found killed, supposedly by Breckenridge agents. The agents, "Charles" and "Eric," communicated with J1 via notes at first, and later by email and text message. Jacques manufactured both identities, and was the sole author of communiqués with the girl.
In 2008, Jacques used his control over J1 to enlist her in a plan to lure Brooke Bennett to his home under the guise of a pool party at which a crush of Bennett's would be in attendance.
For more on this story, read tomorrow's edition of the Rutland Herald.