(Host) All this week in a series of special reports, VPR has been reviewing the highlights of 2006 the ups and downs, the good and bad.
When it comes to crime, Vermonters had some sad moments, and some national attention.
Today, VPR’s Steve Delaney looks back at the crime and punishment of the last 12 months.
(Delaney) The year began with a furor over a sentence for child abuse imposed on defendant Mark Hulett by Judge Edward Cashman, that critics considered unacceptably short.
Few noted that the sixty days in the sentence was conditional, and the maximum was twelve years.
The case blew up into a national scandal when conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly had State Senator Wendy Wilton on TV to talk about impeaching Judge Cashman.
(Wilton) “Judge Cashman had other alternatives for making his point then using this case and that child victim to make the point about lack of treatment. I’m really kind of upset about that.”
(Delaney) Not all Republicans rushed to judgment in the Cashman case. State Senator Vincent Illuzzi of Essex/Orleans, who’s also a prosecutor, spoke out in a VPR commentary.
(Illuzzi) “National roller coaster coverage began on January 4, when it was reported that Judge Cashman had sentenced a child molester to a 60-day jail sentence because he no longer believed in punishment and was more concerned about rehabilitation. The truth was quite different.”
What Judge Cashman did say was the following: “And I keep telling prosecutors and they won’t hear me, that punishment is not enough.” .
The national news media had no idea of what Judge Cashman had actually said or done, and no idea of what options the Department of Corrections told him were available at the time of sentencing.”
(Delaney) By the end of January, lawmakers had crafted a resolution dealing with sentencing and treatment issues, the Corrections Department had changed its sex offender treatment rules, and Judge Cashman increased the Hulett sentence to three-to-ten years, with treatment.
In September Judge Cashman said he would retire in a few months.
And at the end of the year he talked about that decision.
(Cashman) “That was a good sentence, and I’ve never gone through a sexual assault sentence without some negative blowback. It is such a strong emotional event. I understand the system, I understand the sentence, it’s the best sentence for everyone involved. I’m happy with it. My job at that point was to stick with it, and to not let myself get into a situation where it appears that a sentencing judge in Vermont can be swayed by an angry public opinion. It defeated the whole purpose of the judiciary.”
(Delaney) For years the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has been in court contesting child abuse cases against Vermont priests.
In April the Church settled one case involving former priest Edward Paquette, for $965,000.
Church lawyer David Cleary noted that there are sixteen remaining cases, eleven of them involving Paquette.
(Cleary) “If they were to be settled for similar amounts it would be catastrophic.”
(Delaney) The Church has no insurance to cover such claims in civil court.
Just before Thanksgiving the Diocese said its budget deficit has grown from $100,000 to $1.3 million this year, mostly because of borrowing to pay the settlement in the first Paquette case. And the Church has begun moving its assets into trusts, to protect them from creditors.
In June Donald Fell was sentenced to death in Federal Court for the kidnapping and murder of Teresa King six years ago.
VPR’s John Dillon was there.
(Dillon) In court, Fell spoke to King’s family, his head bowed and his voice barely audible.
He apologized twice for the crime. And he said, “What I did was horrible. I know the wounds will never heal. If it comes down in the end that I do die, I accept that it’s no less than what I deserve.”
Five members of King’s family spoke to Fell in court. They said they could not forgive him – that he had robbed them of their mother, their sister, their grandmother. They told him he deserved to die.
Barbara Tuttle, Teresa King’s sister, says she does not believe Fell feels true remorse.
(Tuttle) “I think he made a half attempt to apologize to the family and say that he was sorry, but it doesn’t mean anything to us.”
(Delaney) Donald Fell is now awaiting execution at a Federal prison in Indiana.
A quiet August afternoon in Essex was shattered by a shooting spree that left two women dead and three people wounded, including the shooter.
Authorities say it began when Christopher Williams shot his former girlfriend’s mother, Linda Lambesis, at her home
Prosecutor Margaret Vincent said he was looking for Essex elementary school teacher Andrea Lambesis.
(Vincent) “He went to the school and shots were fired. We are assuming that he went there because that’s where his girlfriend had gone, because she had an in-service that day.”
(Delaney) Andrea Lambesis wasn’t at the school, but teachers Mary Shanks and Mary Snedecker were. Williams allegedly shot them both, killing Shanks.
Police say William’s then went to a friend’s house and shot him, then shot himself in the head, twice, without much effect.
He was evaluated at the State Hospital, and in October was found competent to stand trial for multiple murder.
Early on October 7th, a surveillance camera record a couple walking on Burlington’s Main Street. That was the last image of Michelle Gardner-Quinn, a UVM senior.
Police and students spent the next week searching for Quinn and wondering how a person as savvy as their friend could have gone missing.
(Lang) “She’s been to Costa Rica, Brazil, South Africa, in rural areas working with farmers on sustainable development, so yeah, she’s been in definitely much more dangerous places, and Burlington is supposedly so safe and it’s just so shocking that this can happen “
(Delaney) A week after Gardner-Quinn disappeared, Burlington Police Chief Tom Trombley called a news conference. Here’s how VPR reported it that afternoon,
(Neal Charnoff) Good afternoon, it’s All Things Considered, I’m Neal Charnoff.
(Trombley) “It is with a heavy heart and a great sense of sadness on the part of the citizens of Burlington and the Vermont law enforcement community that I address you this afternoon. Early this afternoon police received preliminary information about a woman’s body being found off Dugway Road in Richmond. An immediate response by members of the Vermont state police, Burlington police and the FBI, confirmed the presence of a woman’s body, and she has tentatively been identified by investigators, as Michelle Gardner-Quinn.”
(Charnoff) VPR’s John Dillon has been at Burlington’s City Hall, where police have announced that this week-long search has come to a grim end. John Dillon, what did the police say?
(Dillon) The chief said that about one o’clock this afternoon there were some hikers in Richmond off Dugway Road, they found a body, off the road, it wasn’t visible from the road. Police responded, the evidence appears that it was a homicide. They tentatively identified her as a twenty one year old missing University of Vermont student. She’s been missing for about a week.
(Charnoff) John, we do understand they have a suspect in custody?
(Dillon) That’s right. They have a thirty-six-year-old construction worker
(Trombley) “We are now prepared to identify Brian Rooney as a suspect in Michelle’s disappearance.”
(Delaney) Rooney said he had nothing to do with the case, but DNA evidence linked him to the killing, and in late October, he was arraigned on charges of sexual assault and murder.
In November Rooney’s lawyers lost en effort to have the charges against him dismissed.
At year’s end, Hulett was in prison, under treatment, while Williams and Rooney were in prison, awaiting trial.
For VPR News, I’m Steve Delaney.