BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A part-time snowplow driver who told police he and his wife set out "to get a girl" was convicted Wednesday of luring a prep-school teacher out of her Vermont home and then killing her.
The 32-year-old defendant, Allen Prue, cried when the jury announced its verdict, as did relatives of the victim, Melissa Jenkins.
"It took a lot of weight off of our shoulders. We were just hoping that was how it was going to turn out," said Jenkins' aunt Linda Gadapee, of East Haven. "All the evidence was there."
The jury rejected arguments by Allen Prue's defense that his wife, Patricia Prue, killed the 33-year-old teacher in a jealous rage. Prue's attorney did not speak outside of court after the verdict.
Prosecutors said the Prues lured Jenkins from her home on March 25, 2012, with a ruse about a broken down car. They described extensive planning that went into the crime: Patricia Prue's computer had been used to conduct online searches for "how to kidnap a girl;" the Prues got a stun gun; and they bought a prepaid cellphone used to call Jenkins in her home to ask for help.
Allen Prue told police he and his wife "wanted somebody they could play with," Caledonia County State's Attorney Lisa Warren told jurors.
Jenkins' nude body was found the next day in the Connecticut River. She had been strangled and beaten. A medical examiner found stun gun burns on her body, and authorities said they found a box for a stun gun in the couple's home, but not the weapon itself.
Allen Prue was convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy and attempted kidnapping. He could be sentenced to life in prison. Judge Robert Bent did not set a date for the sentencing.
Prosecutors said during the two-week trial that Allen Prue gave a detailed confession to police that implicated both him and his wife. His lawyer had argued his client had a low IQ and was unaware of his wife's plan to kill Jenkins.
Patricia Prue, 34, is being tried separately on an aggravated murder charge and other counts. Her trial is scheduled for February. If convicted of aggravated murder, she would get an automatic life sentence.
"It's going to be the same evidence and then some," Warren said.
Jenkins, a single mother and a teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy, was reported missing after her vehicle was found idling on her rural road with her 2-year-old son inside.
Police were led to the couple by a business card for Prue's plow business and because Jenkins had told a friend she was suspicious that the Prues called her about their broken down vehicle. Prue, who had plowed Jenkins' driveway, and his wife were arrested two days after she was killed.
The killing shocked the Northeast Kingdom, an area where violent crime is rare. The trials were moved out of Caledonia County.
One of the lead investigators, Vermont State Police Capt. J.P. Sinclair, said police were pleased with the verdict.
"This was the culmination of a lot of hard work," Sinclair said. "I'm very grateful that these 12 jurors saw this case as we did."