A woman who killed a social worker and three of her family members, all of whom she blamed in part for losing custody of her 9-year-old daughter, was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Wednesday in Barre, Vermont.
“There were four murders. They were well-planned,” Judge John Pacht said. He added that “she helped destroy a community,” VtDigger reports.
Jody Herring, 43, murdered her aunt and two cousins — Julie Falzarano, 73, Regina Herring, 43, and Rhonda Herring, 48 — with a high-powered rifle at their Berlin farmhouse in August 2015. Jody told investigators she killed her three family members and Department for Children and Families caseworker Lara Sobel because she felt they played a role in the state taking Jody’s then-9-year-old daughter away from her, according to NBC5.
"They [expletive] deserved it," Jody told an investigator in 2015. She pleaded guilty over the summer to one count of first-degree murder and to three counts of second-degree murder.
In court on Wednesday, Jody said tearfully, “I sat up all night wondering what was I going to say. I’ve never been a mean person in my whole life. [...] I’m very sorry. I can’t take back that day. I wish I could, but I can’t. I handle my stress so differently than everybody else does.”
Her lawyer, David Sleigh, pointed blame at a psychiatric ward for releasing her early in the months prior to the murders.
“On August 7, 2015, Jody Herring should have remained involuntarily hospitalized for the mental health crisis she was in the midst of as she was clearly a danger to herself and to others,” Sleigh wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed last week.
Jody referenced a victim statement made earlier by Sobel’s father, in which he said about the loss of his daughter: "It does not just change you, it demolishes you.”
“Mr. Sobel is right, the loss of a child is so hard to endure. It bothered me for everybody to get up there and listen to those victim impact statements. I know how it feels.”
Randy Herring told the court in a victim statement that after his mother and sisters were killed, he has been distraught and always keeps a gun nearby.
"I am in complete anger at times and can't think straight. The emotions I feel every day make it hard to survive," he said. "I wonder every day if I can make it to tomorrow.”
In a closing argument, Assistant Attorney General Matt Levine said, "This case is an example of one of the most extreme, premeditated acts of multiple killings that we have ever witnessed in this state. This case is an example of an attack not only on the individuals who were specifically targeted, but in a larger sense, governmental institutions, societal norms as we know them to be, and for that reason it takes on a different aura and different importance setting it apart from other kind of cases."
People in the audience applauded and cried when the sentenced was handed down, according to local reports.