ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. – 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 changed her plea to guilty to aggravated murder 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 that she needed.
"I'm not sorry we were caught ... I am sorry that it ever happened," she said.
Prue's lawyer used the sentencing hearing to call for more support for mental health services, saying his client is severely mentally ill and has been for much of her life. 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 with a ruse about a broken down car, strangled and beat her and dumped her body in the Connecticut River, Warren said.
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. 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 for first-degree murder.
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 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 that he hoped the sentencing would be "one suture to help close what has been an open would in your heart."