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US governor: Woman is ‘alleged perpetrator’ in 4 slayings

August 9, 2015

BARRE, Vermont (AP) — A woman charged in the slaying of a social worker in the northeastern state of Vermont is also “the alleged perpetrator” of the deaths of three relatives whose bodies were found Saturday, Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

The three women found dead at a home Saturday morning were an aunt and two cousins of 40-year-old Jody Herring, the governor said at a news conference Saturday night after returning from vacation in Nova Scotia upon hearing of the deaths. Herring was arrested on a murder charge in the death of Lara Sobel.

Sobel was gunned down after work Friday outside a state office building in Barre. She handled a case for the state Department for Children and Families in which Herring lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter, authorities said.

Herring was in custody, pending an arraignment Monday. It wasn’t clear if she had a lawyer who could comment on her behalf.

“I think all Vermonters are as shocked, dismayed, horrified and grief-stricken as all of us are,” Shumlin said. “I cannot remember, in my lifetime, four people being murdered by the same alleged perpetrator.”

The governor said the investigation into the deaths of Herring’s relatives was ongoing and he declined to release any additional information. Police said at least two of the women appeared to have been shot.

Shumlin and law enforcement officials stressed at the news conference that there was no reason to believe there was a continuing threat related to the incidents.

Authorities said Friday night that Sobel had just left an agency office on Friday afternoon when she was shot twice. The child remains in state custody, officials said.

Ken Schatz, the commissioner for the Department for Children and Families, called Sobel’s shooting “a heartbreaking tragedy.” He called Sobel “an experienced social worker. She had been providing public service for children and families for more than 14 years.”

Vermont’s child protection agency, like those in many other U.S. states, frequently comes under criticism: from parents for being too quick to remove children from homes in cases of alleged abuse and neglect, and from the public when children are left in the home and end up dying at the hands of family members.

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