- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont man who pleaded guilty to charges in the kidnapping, sexual assault and death of his 12-year-old niece, avoiding a federal death penalty trial, is scheduled to be sentenced May 20.

Michael Jacques, of Randolph, entered the plea in August as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors. He is to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, under the plea agreement.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 20 in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

Brooke Bennett’s death in 2008 prompted the Vermont Legislature to strengthen the state’s sex offender laws.

Prosecutors said Jacques, a convicted sex offender, used a 14-year-old girl he had been sexually abusing since she was 9 to lure Brooke to his home for a pool party by having the girl send Brooke a text message purporting to be from a boy she was interested in.

Jacques, who was married to the sister of Brooke’s mother, drugged, sexually assaulted and ultimately suffocated Brooke with a plastic bag, prosecutors said. He then created an online trail making it look like Brooke was the victim of someone she’d met on the Internet, and left her underwear on the side of a dirt road with another male’s DNA, authorities said.

Brooke was last seen at a convenience store in Randolph on June 25, 2008. Her body was found about a week later not far from Jacques‘ home. That fall, he pleaded not guilty to charges in the case. Last August, prosecutors announced Jacques had agreed to plead guilty to charges of kidnapping with death resulting, four counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

His attorney, David Ruhnke, called it “a fair and enlightened way to resolve this case.”

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