State police: Body believed to be that of Brooke Bennett found
BETHEL, Vt. (AP) _ The body of a missing 12-year-old whose uncle allegedly planned to force her into a sex ring the day she disappeared was found Wednesday in Randolph, not far from his house.
State Police Director Col. James Baker said Brooke Bennett's body was found about 4:45 p.m. and her family had been notified.
The uncle, Michael Jacques, has been in custody since Sunday on charges of aggravated sexual assault against a different underage girl. He has pleaded not guilty. Police Sgt. Tara Thomas said he would be charged in federal court with kidnapping.
Brooke was last seen alive with Jacques at a convenience store a week ago.
"The painful discovery of Brooke's body today is tragic and heartbreaking," Baker said at a news conference.
He called the death "clearly suspicious" but declined to give details before a planned briefing Thursday morning.
But in an affidavit unsealed earlier in U.S. District Court in Burlington, the FBI said an unidentified teenager told investigators she was present on June 25 when Jacques, 42, tricked Brooke into thinking she was going to a party and took her to his Randolph home to be initiated into a sex ring.
The girl said she was led to believe that Brooke would "would have sex with adult males" during the initiation.
After the three got to Jacques' home, the girl said she and Brooke watched television for a while before Jacques told her to leave and took his niece upstairs. The witness, who is 14, said she left the house with her boyfriend and did not see Brooke again.
The 14-year-old said she herself had been having sex with Jacques, 42, since she was 9 as part of the sex ring.
Brooke's former stepfather, Raymond Gagnon, appeared in federal court Wednesday on an obstruction of justice charge in the case. He was denied bail and was held pending another hearing on Monday.
Police say Gagnon, 40, lives in Texas but often visited Vermont. According to the affidavit, he told police he accessed Brooke's MySpace page from a laptop computer at his home in San Antonio after getting login information from Jacques.
Police said they have evidence that postings to the account were altered to make it appear that Brooke had discussed a secret rendevous with someone identified as "Skittlemeup" shortly before she disappeared.
Gagnon also told police he had downloaded child pornography onto the laptop, according to the affidavit.
In Randolph before the announcement, Brooke's friends and family put up signs saying they missed her and were praying for her safe return. She lived in Braintree, a small town close to Randolph.
"To the community, thank you so much for all your support and help, and I hope I can keep continuing to get that," said Brooke's mother, Cassandra Gagnon. She wore a photo pin of her daughter on her T-shirt.
She said she was "very surprised" by her ex-husband's alleged involvement.
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