ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — A woman convicted along with her husband of killing a prep school teacher in 2012 after they decided "to get a girl" was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Patricia Prue gave up a possible insanity defense a day earlier and pleaded guilty to a murder charge in the disappearance and killing of St. Johnsbury Academy teacher Melissa Jenkins, who prosecutors say was lured to her death with a ruse about a broken down car.
Prue apologized to Jenkins' family and said she wished she had gotten the mental health help she needed.
"I'm not sorry we were caught. I am sorry that it ever happened," she said.
Prue's lawyer, Brian Marsicovetere, used the sentencing hearing to call for more support for mental health services and early intervention, saying his client is severely mentally ill. He said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, panic and personality disorders, and general anxiety.
But prosecutors said mental health was not the main issue in the case.
Caledonia County State's Attorney Lisa Warren said the Prues spent months plotting the March 25, 2012, crime in order to fulfill a fantasy: Patricia Prue's computer had been used to conduct online searches for "how to kidnap a girl," the Prues stalked Jenkins, got a stun gun and bought a prepaid cellphone to call Jenkins to ask for help. The Prues lured the 32-year-old from her home, strangled and beat her and dumped her body in the Connecticut River, Warren said.
"These crimes were carefully and nearly meticulously planned, and Patricia Prue was key in the planning behind Melissa Jenkins' murder," she said. The judge agreed that Prue appeared to be catalyst for the events that led to Jenkins' death.
Jenkins, a single mother, was reported missing after her vehicle was found that night idling on a road with her 2-year-old son inside. Her body was found the next day.
Allen Prue, who had a snowplow business and had plowed Jenkins' driveway, blamed his wife for the crime at his sentencing in December and is appealing his murder conviction. Authorities say he told police he and his wife wanted "to get a girl."
Patricia Prue admitted on Thursday during what was supposed to be a mental competency hearing that she strangled Jenkins. She said she wanted to plead guilty so she could resume written contact with her husband, who is serving a life sentence.
Police were led to the Prues after a friend of Jenkins told them Jenkins said she was suspicious after the Prues called her about their vehicle. They also found a business card for Allen Prue at Jenkins' home.
About 30 relatives and friends of Jenkins, as well as state police troopers who investigated the crime, attended the sentencing.
The case has taken "thousands of hours, thousands of dollars and millions of tears," the family said in a letter read in court by Caledonia County Deputy State's Attorney Kirk Williams. "We will never again know the joy and happiness we shared for 33 years. Please do the right thing for Melissa, her beloved son, brother, mother, father, family and friends."
The judge said there would not be one day in prison when Patricia Prue wouldn't relive "the evilness" of her actions. He told Jenkins' family and friends that he hoped the sentencing would be "one suture to help close what has been an open would in your heart."