The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 790 in Barre, Vermont honored three men with the VFW's prestigious "lifesaving award" Thursday, in a ceremony at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier.
"By definition, valor is great courage in the face of danger," said Paul Perreault, the Commander of VFW Post 790, describing award recipients Scott Williams, Greg McNaughton, and Andy Hockman.
The three happened to be nearby two months ago, when investigators said Jody Herring, enraged at having lost custody of a child, hunted down a Vermont DCF worker involved in her case. Herring then allegedly shot and killed Lara Sobel outside her Barre office.
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Sobel's death came after Herring allegedly murdered her cousins, Rhonda and Regina Herring, and their mother, 73-year-old Julie Ann Falzarano. They were found dead in a home in Berlin, not far from the office where Sobel worked. Investigators believe Herring blamed her relatives for having a hand in her loss of parental custody rights.
Jody Herring has pled not guilty and is jailed without bail pending resolution of the criminal cases against her.
The Vermont Attorney General's office is prosecuting the case, because Scott Williams is the State's Attorney for Washington County. He explained he stepped aside from handling the prosecution himself due to having been there as Sobel died.
"I wish there wasn't a reason for us to even be here," McNaughton said at the ceremony, choking back tears.
The VFW praised McNaughton, Williams, and Hockman for running toward danger, not from it. Witnesses said the three wrestled a rifle from Herring, pinned her down, and just as importantly, comforted the social worker in her final moments.
"I can say now that things could've been a lot worse that day," Williams said after receiving his award, suggesting Herring might have done more harm to others had she not been subdued.
If selflessness was one requirement for the honor, then Williams showed again Thursday why he was deserving, using his time in the spotlight to urge Vermonters to support a memorial fund that will help Lara Sobel's children, Julia and Elahna. That new effort, organized by the Vermont State Employees' Association, is aimed at providing health, welfare, and educational needs for the girls, according to the union’s website.
"It's to make sure they're not going to suffer any economic need," Williams said.
Click here for more information on the VSEA's efforts to raise money to support Sobel's daughters.