ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — A man accused with his wife of kidnapping and killing a teacher was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison, with the judge saying they hunted their victim like prey.
Judge Robert Bent said a mitigating factor in Allen Prue's case was a lack of a criminal history before 2012, when prosecutors say he and his wife, Patricia Prue, lured Melissa Jenkins from her home with a ruse about a broken-down vehicle and strangled and beat her.
Allen Prue, before being sentenced, said he felt terrible for what happened but was convicted of a crime he didn't commit. He blamed his wife for the killing.
"I can't imagine what Melissa's family is going through," he said tearfully at the end of a daylong sentencing hearing. "I just wanted to tell the court that I'm convicted of a crime I did not do. One thing I am guilty of is bringing this person who is responsible for this crime to Vermont."
But the judge rejected the defense arguments that Allen Prue played a minor role in the crime. He said Prue and his wife were "a pair hunting their prey."
"The attack was committed with suddenness and ferocity," he said. "And Miss Jenkins was driven to the ground. The court does conclude that the attack was primarily driven by Mr. Prue, who has the strength ... and he was able to drive her to the ground and choke her out" although he may have not delivered the fatal choking.
Prosecutors had asked the state Superior Court judge to impose a sentence of life without parole. Allen Prue's attorney had asked for a sentence of 35 years to life, saying his wife was the driving force behind the crime.
Allen Prue, who told police he and his wife wanted "to get a girl," was convicted in October of first-degree murder in the killing of Jenkins, a 32-year-old St. Johnsbury Academy teacher.
Patricia Prue has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder. She was expected to go on trial in March but has informed her lawyer she wants to plead guilty in a plea deal.
Jenkins, a single mother, 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 Prues by a business card for Allen Prue's snowplow business in her home and because she had told a friend she was suspicious the Prues called her about their vehicle. Prue, who had plowed Jenkins' driveway, and his wife were arrested two days after she was killed.
Prosecutors said the Prues planned 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 to call Jenkins to ask for help.
Jenkins' body was found the following day in the Connecticut River.The crime shook the Northeast Kingdom community, where violent crime is rare. Jenkins' friends and relatives packed the courtroom Wednesday, with more than a dozen wearing pink in honor of her.