ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont snowplow driver who wanted to "get a girl" was accused Wednesday along with his wife of luring a popular prep school teacher from her home by pretending their vehicle had broken down, then beating and strangling her, stripping her body naked and throwing it into the Connecticut River.
Allen Prue, 30, and Patricia Prue, 33, of Waterford, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Melissa Jenkins, whose SUV was found idling along a remote road near her St. Johnsbury home on Sunday with her unharmed 2-year-old inside.
Police said Allen Prue was riding around on Sunday with his wife when he got the idea "to get a girl," the affidavit said. "They didn't plan to get one forcefully," the police affidavit said.
Police gave no further details on a possible motive in the death of the 33-year-old teacher at the prestigious St. Johnsbury Academy.
The Prues were ordered held without bail, and police said more charges were possible.
"They knew Miss Jenkins and had snowplowed her driveway a couple of years ago," Vermont State Police Maj. Ed Ledo said at a news conference announcing the arrests.
A friend told police that Allen Prue had asked Jenkins out a couple of times and that she felt uncomfortable around him, according to the documents. She stopped having him plow, and in autumn 2011 he showed up drunk at her home asking if he could plow her driveway the following year.
After the court appearance, Allen Prue's mother, Donna Prue, said that her son has never been in trouble with the law before and that she has faith he didn't commit the crime."I do not believe he would ever do this, because he didn't have it in him. I have nothing against her (Patricia); I don't have nothing bad to say about either one," said Donna Prue, who lives with the couple and her daughter. She said she did not know Jenkins.
Police were called Sunday night after Jenkins' son was found alone in her vehicle. Her former boyfriend told police she called him saying that she had gotten a weird call from a couple who used to plow her driveway and that she was going to help them. She wanted someone to know what she was doing, the documents say.
When he couldn't reach her two hours later, he went to check on her. He told police he found her vehicle, with her son sleeping in it, and one of her shoes nearby.
Allen Prue later told police that Patricia Prue called Jenkins and told her they had broken down near her home.
The death of the well-loved science teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy, once attended by President Calvin Coolidge, reverberated through the town of 6,200 in northeastern Vermont about 40 miles south of the Canadian border.
Ledo said he hoped the arrests would bring closure for Jenkins' family and friends.
"We can now turn our full attention to healing from this tragic loss, celebrating Melissa's life and mourning her death," said Joe Healy, a spokesman for St. Johnsbury Academy.
The court documents describe the encounter this way:
When the 33-year-old Jenkins got out of her vehicle, Allen Prue grabbed her and strangled her. He said his wife was outside helping him but didn't know what she was doing. He then put the body in the backseat of their car, and they drove to their home. At some point, Patricia Prue choked Jenkins in the car "to ensure she wasn't breathing."
Back at their home, he put Jenkins' body on a tarp, removed her clothes and poured bleach on her body. The Prues also removed their clothes and put them on the tarp.
They then drove to a boat access at the Connecticut River, which separates Vermont from New Hampshire, and put Jenkins' body in the water, weighing it down with cinder blocks and concealing it with brush.
They threw a prepaid cell phone that Patricia had used to call Jenkins into the water near Moore Dam and took the tarp and the clothes to New Hampshire where they burned it.
Jenkins' body was found with her feet tied and bruising indicating a severe beating before her death, the affidavit said.