Charges upgraded in Vt. teacher's death

June 22, 2012 - 9:45 PM

St. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — Charges were upgraded Friday against a Vermont couple accused of killing a prep school teacher and dumping her body in the Connecticut River, after authorities said the couple planned the crime in advance and the wife later bragged about it to fellow jail inmates.

Allen Prue, 30, and Patricia Prue, 33, of Waterford, previously pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the March death of Melissa Jenkins of St. Johnsbury. Caledonia County State's Attorney Lisa Warren amended the charges Friday against both; Allen Prue was charged with first-degree murder, while Patricia Prue was charged with aggravated murder.

The Prues planned in advance to kill the 33-year-old single mother, buying a stun gun and prepaid cellphone before the crime, and then strangled, beat and electrocuted her, according to an affidavit signed by Vermont State Police Detective Sergeant Walter F. Smith.

A fellow inmate said Patricia Prue said the couple had picked Jenkins because they thought she was beautiful and were attracted to her, but Patricia Prue felt "socially snuffed" by her and Jenkins didn't recommend Allen Prue, a snowplow driver, for snowplowing jobs, according to Smith's affidavit. Another inmate said Patricia Prue said she had strangled Jenkins while Allen Prue sexually assaulted her, the affidavit said.

Police found a ripped up note written by Patricia Prue with details of the crime, Smith said. Divers who searched the river discovered the prepaid cellphone the couple bought before the crime, and there's no evidence that it was used for any other call than to Jenkins' house the night she died, police said.

A lawyer for Patricia Prue said Friday that he would have to review the new charges with his client and could not comment, while a lawyer representing Allen Prue could not be reached for comment after normal business hours.

Police have said Allen Prue said he and his wife got the idea "to get a girl" and then lured Jenkins with a ruse about a broken down car, strangled and beat her and dumped her body in the Connecticut River in Barnet. Jenkins' SUV was found idling on her road with her 2-year-old son inside.

The Prues are due in court Tuesday for arraignment on the new charges, The Caldedonian-Record reported. If convicted, they face up to life in prison.