- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - A jury deliberated five hours without reaching a verdict Tuesday in the case of a man charged along with his wife with luring a St. Johnsbury teacher out of her home and killing her in 2012.

Judge Robert Bent dismissed jurors at about 8:10 p.m. after they told the court they would not be able to determine before Wednesday whether Allen Prue was guilty of murder in Melissa Jenkins’ death.

Prue’s lawyer sought in his closing argument to blame the killing on Prue’s wife, Patricia Prue, who is to be tried separately.

Defense lawyer Robert Katims also sought to dismiss each of the state’s witnesses and pieces of evidence. The evidence included marks on Jenkins’ body indicating she was attacked with a stun gun - which was never found, though a box for one was found at the Prues’ home, authorities said - and signs Jenkins was beaten and stomped and died of strangulation.

The Caledonia County state’s attorney, Lisa Warren, told jurors they needed to view the evidence in its totality.

“Those may all seem piddly,” she said of the individual pieces of evidence cited by Katims. “But when you put each site together, and each piece of evidence that Vermont State Police put together, like a pie, it does make sense.”

Katims made two arguments about the confessions Prue gave to Vermont State Police detectives: He was a man with an IQ of 75 who was manipulated and coerced into making incriminating statements. And he wanted to shield his wife from blame.

Only a jealous rage of the sort Katims said Patricia Prue had toward Jenkins could explain the “brutal, savage” nature of the killing. The story Prue told police was of a “quick strangulation,” a story that doesn’t square with the harm Jenkins suffered, the defense lawyer said.

Warren argued that each of the Prues was culpable in the death of Jenkins, a popular 33-year-old teacher at the St. Johnsbury Academy.

“Who had their hands around Melissa’s neck when she breathed her last breath is really hard to determine,” Warren said. “But the bottom line is this: Both Allen and Patricia Prue were at Goss Hollow on March 25, 2012, kidnapped her, threw her in the car and ultimately murdered her.”

Authorities said that Allen Prue was acquainted with Jenkins because he had plowed snow from her driveway. They said that the Prues called her and said their car had broken down to lure her from her home, abducted her, leaving her 2-year-old son in the back seat of her car, killed her and dumped her naked body in the Connecticut River.

Judge Robert Bent said the jury may consider a first-degree murder charge against Prue, which carries a penalty of 35 years to life, or second-degree murder, which brings a 20-years-to-life sentence. Prue, 32, is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted kidnapping.

Patricia Prue faces a charge of aggravated murder, which can bring a sentence of life without parole, the stiffest in a state with no death penalty. She has pleaded not guilty.

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