On June 26, 2008, Vermont issued its first-ever AMBER Alert after Brooke was last seen the previous day on surveillance film leaving a convenience store with her uncle and cousin.
You see, Brooke never had a chance. Her abduction and murder—allegedly at the hands of her uncle, Michael Jacques, a two-time convicted sex offender—may have been all too predictable and almost certainly preventable. Jacques has since been charged with Brooke’s kidnapping. If it is determined that the kidnapping led to her death, he could receive the death penalty. Brooke was found deceased on her uncle's property on July 2, 2008.
Several factors may have contributed to the foreseeable demise of this little girl. The fact that she was permitted to be in the company of a relative who preyed on children put her in continual contact in the family setting with someone who had already been convicted of perpetrating the most heinous acts imaginable on a child.
Vermont state law also clearly let down Brooke when they allowed her alleged killer out of jail after only serving three years for a similar crime. Court records show that Michael Jacques abducted and brutalized another innocent child in 1992. In 2006, after serving the ridiculously short sentence, Jacques was released to set up a “sex ring,” where girls as young as nine years old were recruited to participate in sex with adult males. In fact, Jacques used one of his former victims to lure Brooke to her initiation in the sex ring, and to her ultimate death.
Vermont is one of the states that failed to adopt Jessie’s law, which provides minimum sentencing guidelines for sexual offenders who prey on children. Some form of Jessie’s law—proposed by Mark Lunsford, father of Jessica Lunsford (pictured right), who was abducted, raped, and buried alive by John Couey in 2005—has already been enacted into law in 33 states.
The State of Vermont is now considering the adoption of 25-year mandatory minimum sentencing for sexual offenders. But some, including victims' advocates, are opposed to the measure saying that mandatory minimums may prevent young victims from coming forward or from testifying against family members. It would also negate the possibility of plea bargains and cause the potential for some offenders to walk away free after trial.
Too little, too late for Brooke Bennett and countless other children. Michael Jacques is yet another veritable poster boy for the flaws in our justice system that contribute to the horrific deaths of children like Brooke at the hands of monsters like him.