ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. – Abandoning any claims to an insanity defense, a Vermont woman pleaded guilty Thursday to the 2012 strangulation of a prep school teacher who prosecutors say was lured to her death with a ruse about a broken down car.
At a mental competency hearing, a judge found Patricia Prue capable of rational decisions before she pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in the death of St. Johnsbury Academy teacher Melissa Jenkins.
Prue admitted she strangled the 32-year-old Jenkins. She said she wanted to plead guilty so that she could resume written contact with her husband Allen Prue, who is serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction in the case. As co-defendants, the two weren't allowed to communicate while the charges were pending.
At his sentencing last year, Allen Prue, who had a snowplow business and had plowed Jenkins' driveway, blamed his wife for the crime. Authorities say he told police he and his wife wanted "to get a girl."
Patricia Prue is to be sentenced Friday. She faces life in prison.
Prosecutors say 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.
They say the Prues lured Jenkins from her home March 25, 2012, with the ruse about a broken down car, strangled and beat her and dumped her body in the Connecticut River. The single mother was reported missing after her vehicle was found that day idling on a rural road with her 2-year-old son inside. Her body was found in the river the next day.
Police were led to the Prues after a Jenkins' friend 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.