Uncle of Missing Girl Arrested on Unrelated Sex Charges

The uncle of a missing 12-year-old girl — one of the last people to see her before she vanished — has been arrested on unrelated sex charges developed as part of the investigation into her disappearance, Vermont State Police said.

Michael Jacques, 42, of Randolph, who dropped off Brooke Bennett at a convenience store Wednesday and was seen leaving it in a different direction on a surveillance camera video, was charged with aggravated sexual assault against a minor — the victim wasn't Bennett.

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She remained missing Sunday, despite an intensive search by state police, the FBI and other agencies.

Jacques, who is married to Bennett's mother's sister, is listed on Vermont sex offender registry. He was convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping in 1993.

The arrest came as the result of information uncovered by investigators assigned to the disappearance. The victim wasn't identified.

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He was being held at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, pending an arraignment in Orange County District Court on Monday. If convicted, he could get 10 years to life in prison.

Jacques and a cousin of Bennett's dropped the girl at Cumberland Farms in Randolph about 9 a.m. Wednesday, police said. On the video, which was released Friday, the two are seen in the store, where Jacques makes a purchase with Bennett at his side. They walk out together, and then part ways.

Her grandmother reported Bennett missing 12 hours later, and on Thursday an Amber Alert — the first in Vermont history — was issued for Bennett.

Police have said they believe Bennett may have been headed to meet someone with whom she had been communicating online. On Friday, Vermont State Police director Col. James Baker said the investigation centered on contacts involving Bennett on the MySpace.com social networking site.

No suspects have been named in her disappearance.