Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Little Girl Lost

by Donna Weaver

Brooke Bennett was supposed to turn 13 years old last Saturday. Instead, her life was tragically cut short 3 weeks ago. Over 1000 people attended the funeral service for Brooke last Wednesday, July 9th. Pastor Thomas Harty of United Church of Bethel had those in attendance repeat three words after him: “Never, never again.”

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.


Anonymous said...

I have a 13 year old daughter and this haunted me for weeks. I could see in her pictures the progress of a child growing into a teenager. It is the same progression my daughter is making and for days I hovered over my daughter trying to protect her from some unseen evil that no one protected Brooke from. I am furious that there are sick animals like that out walking around and it doesn't seem we as a society seem to get the fact that they do not change. I don't believe in rehabilitation for these types of offenders...nor do I believe they even deserve the chance. If lawmakers cannot put into effect legislation that puts these people away for good or enacts the death penalty, maybe their daughters should spend a few weeks alone with them and see how they come out.

Anonymous said...

Last night while I was winding down I caught a portion of the show Paroled on Bio. In it they had a 45 year old man doing a 10-30 year sentence for his fourth offense as a sex offender. (two previous ones were his nephews, the other previous one his stepson) He completed a sex offender course in which he admitted to 100 total offenses. 100!! He was only in his 5th year when his parole came up. Here is the messed up thing. HE GOT IT!
These people serve no purpose in our society. NONE.
LWOP is the ONLY answer for these freaks if we have no intention of putting them down.

Forget 25 years mandatory. That would still leave some of them able to get out of prison and do this again. Which we all know they will if given the chance.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I forgot to comment on this.
"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."

Most children are too terrified to come forward anyway. Most children do not even understand mandatory sentencing. That is a load of crap.

Anonymous said...

It is a load of crap Michelle. I don't understand these idiots who keep coming up with excuses for not adequately procecting society against these creeps. All of it is pure BS and LAME!

Anonymous said...

If it's not LWOP (Life Without Parole), then it should be LWOP (Life Without Penis). These bastards should be castrated if they are going to be released.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing to show that a longer sentence would have been effective in altering his behavior. It would have kept in a very expensive cell for a longer period of time. Perhaps it would have been worth it, but more likely a few more years in the cell would have simply put off the inevitable and perhaps made it even more likely to take place.