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Burlington Free Press
Zach Desparts, Free Press Staff Writer
August 10, 2015
BARRE – Her clothes stained with blood, Jody Herring laughed and made small talk in police custody shortly after she shot dead a social worker Friday afternoon in Barre, prosecutors said. By Saturday morning, the police would discover the slayings of three of Herring’s relatives at a farmhouse six miles away. The authorities suspect Herring killed them, too, in one of Vermont’s deadliest outbursts of violence.
By Saturday morning, the police would discover the slayings of three of Herring’s relatives at a farmhouse six miles away. The authorities suspect Herring killed them, too, in one of Vermont’s deadliest outbursts of violence.
Investigators say Herring, 40, of South Barre was upset at losing custody of her 9-year-old daughter in July.
Herring was expressionless Monday afternoon as sheriff’s deputies led her into Vermont Superior Court in Barre to face a charge of first-degree murder arising from the killing of Department for Children and Families employee Lara Sobel. The defendant’s leg irons jangled in the silent courtroom as she walked to the defense table. In a red jumpsuit and wearing shackles, Herring sat less than 100 yards from the parking lot in which law enforcement says she killed Sobel. Herring’s attorney pleaded not guilty on her behalf. Prosecutors have yet to bring charges connected to the killings of the suspect’s cousins, Rhonda and Regina Herring, and Jody Herring’s aunt Julie Falzarano.
Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell said the investigation was “in its infancy.” Judge Kevin Griffin ordered Herring held without bail. Prosecutors could file new charges at any time. Her lawyers left court without commenting. Sobel, 48, was leaving work at DCF on Friday afternoon when the police say Herring shot her twice with a .270-caliber, bolt-action rifle. Sobel, who is survived by her husband and two daughters, worked as a social worker for more than 14 years.
A police affidavit of probable cause outlines the state’s case against Herring in connection with the killing of Sobel. Police received a report of a shooting at 4:54 p.m. Friday. Witnesses told officers that Herring approached Sobel as she left work at Barre City Place, then shot her twice with a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle. Witnesses said Herring fired the second shot from close range, after Sobel had fallen to the ground. Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams was working out at a nearby gym when he heard the gunshots. Williams ran to the scene and managed to get the gun away from Herring, he told reporters Monday. Bystanders held Herring until Barre City police arrived minutes later. An autopsy determined Sobel died of two gunshot wounds to the torso and upper extremities, the affidavit states. Police said Herring behaved erratically once in custody. Herring was “very calm and laughing during the entire interaction,” police said, and “making small talk about the incident like it was no big deal.”
She became agitated later when investigators tried to interview her, the police say. Herring ranted about being beaten by a former partner, according to court papers, and about how she believed she had been mistreated by the Department for Children and Families. Saturday morning, the authorities found the bodies of three of Herring’s relatives at a home in the nearby town of Berlin. Gov. Peter Shumlin has identified Herring as “the alleged perpetrator” in all four killings. Tiffany Herring, 23, the daughter of victim Rhonda Herring, told the Burlington Free Press on Saturday she found the bodies. She said Jody Herring had called her loved ones Friday morning to threaten them and to make comments about DCF. The victims found in the house were sisters Regina Herring, 43, and Rhonda Herring, 48, and their mother, Julie Falzarano, 73. The authorities have yet to detail how long before Sobel’s slaying they believe the three killings in Berlin occurred. Court papers state Jody Herring called her brother, Dwayne Herring, just before 3 p.m. Friday and left a message asking him to call her back immediately “if you think anything of your sister.” Four minutes later, Herring called back and left another message, her brother later would tell the police: “Watch the news, and you’ll wish you got a hold of me earlier.”
Williams speaks out
Scott Williams spoke with reporters outside the courthouse Monday afternoon about his role in apprehending Herring. Williams, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he two gunshots while he was at a gym in Barre City Place. He ran outside to the scene of the shooting, where he took the rifle from Herring. “I was able to disable the weapon and move it,” Williams said, adding that he had two bystanders restrain Herring until the police arrived.
Scott Williams, the Washington County state’s attorney, speaks to reporters about what happened Friday outside his office, where DCF social worker Lara Sobel was shot and killed.
He said he recognized Sobel and Herring from professional interactions. Williams praised Sobel for her work with Vermont’s children. “She was a pit bull of an advocate for kids. She did not hesitate to let judges and lawyers know what was best for kids,” Williams said. “I respected the hell out of her.” A tearful Williams said he comforted Sobel in her final moments. Sobel died at the scene. Williams said he asked his wife to go to Sobel’s East Montpelier home to notify her family. He thanked the bystanders and police officers who secured the scene and attempted to treat Sobel. The county prosecutor removed himself from handling the Herring case because he might be called as a witness. The Attorney General’s Office took over the prosecution.
Lengthy criminal history
Court records show Herring has 11 misdemeanor convictions dating to 1994, including drunken driving, domestic assault, disorderly conduct and possession of narcotics. Herring’s criminal convictions disqualified her from acquiring a gun, according to court records. The documents make no mention of how, where or when Herring obtained the rifle.
Jody Herring is led out of court after her arraignment in Barre on Monday. The Vermont woman is charged with killing a social worker because she was upset about losing custody of her 9-year-old daughter. Herring pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
(Photo: Toby Talbot/Times Argus via
Investigators also found a box of .270-caliber ammunition in Herring’s vehicle in the Barre City Place parking lot. In court papers, law-enforcement authorities made no mention of how long they believe Herring waited for Sobel to emerge from Barre City Place. A witness told the police she saw Herring sitting in a vehicle moments before the shooting. Meanwhile, Sobel’s family said Monday her funeral would be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Grand Ballroom at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier, according to an obituary published in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus newspaper
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Jody Herring Previously Diagnosed as Bipolar
Aug. 13, 2015, 7:50 pm
by Erin Mansfield
Mental health assessments
But the recurring issue in Jody Herring’s custody cases involve her mental health, which is documented back until at least 2009. Herring has a history of mood problems and likely had bipolar disorder, according to a November 2010 medical opinion from the Central Vermont Medical Group.
A physician, who noted that he was not a psychiatrist, argued in the document that Herring’s “chief medical problem affecting her employability” was bipolar disorder. He said it was severe enough to keep her from working full-time, and that medications had so far “only normalized things a little.”