A quadruple murderer was ordered to spend the rest of her life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
Vermont Superior Court Judge John Pacht issued the sentence Wednesday to Jody Herring following a three-day hearing in Barre.
Herring pled guilty this past summer to killing two of her cousins, Rhonda and Regina Herring, and their mother, Julie Ann Falzarano, inside Falzarano’s home in Berlin in August 2015.
Herring then went to Barre to hunt down a caseworker for the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Lara Sobel.
She shot each of the women with a high-powered rifle. Investigators said Herring blamed the four victims for her loss of child custody, and wanted revenge.
Prosecutors had asked for a mandatory life sentence, with no chance for parole, given the extent of the violence, the planning that went into the shooting deaths, and the widespread hurt the crimes caused many in the community.
The defense hoped for a chance at parole, even if decades from now, arguing Herring’s actions followed a lifetime of trauma, anxiety disorders, and drug use.
Judge Pacht said while he has compassion for the challenging life Herring has led, the brutality of the killings and the need to ensure public safety merited a life sentence without the opportunity for parole.
"I’m very sorry," an emotional Jody Herring told the court before the sentencing came down. "I can’t take back that day. I wish I could, but I can’t."
Naomi Herring, the niece and granddaughter of Jody Herring’s first three victims, said she disowned Jody and no longer considers her a relative.
"You ended more than four lives that day—you ended every life that was touched by this tragedy," Naomi Herring told Jody Herring in a victim’s impact statement, describing how her family has been forever affected by the crimes.
Randy Herring, the brother of Rhonda and Regina Herring, said the killings have left him with lasting pain and trauma.
"My wife told me she lost her husband that day, as I can no longer feel happiness," Randy Herring told the judge in a victim impact statement.
Lara Sobel’s sister and father told the court the social worker was put on this earth to help others, and life without her just feels emptier.
"We are sentenced to live each day for the rest of our lives without my sister,"Lauren Shapiro told the court in her victim impact statement.
"Lara truly embodied the definition of a beautiful soul," her father added. “Your honor, the world was brighter when she was here. Now it is not.”
Relatives of all four victims said after the hearing that they were grateful for the judge’s sentence.
The commissioner of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, Ken Schatz, told necn that Judge Pacht’s sentence sends a clear message that violence against social workers has no place in this state or anyplace else.
Schatz said that his front line staffers will continue to serve Vermont’s most vulnerable residents, mindful of Lara Sobel’s dedication and professionalism as part of her legacy.