Jody Herring — the Vermont woman who was on trial for the murder of a social worker, two cousins and an aunt — pleaded guilty to all four murders on Thursday as part of a plea agreement, according to multiple reports.
Herring, 42, confessed to fatally shooting social worker Lara Sobel, as well as three of her own family members for what she believed was their role in taking her 9-year-old daughter away from her, ABC News reports.
In the plea agreement, Herring admitted to shooting Sobel as she left her office in Barre, Vermont, on Aug. 7, 2015. Police said Herring was angry with Sobel over her involvement in the case that resulted in Herring losing custody of her daughter on July 10, according to the Associated Press. Sobel, a Long Island native who taught Israeli dancing in her spare time, was 48 years old, according to Newsday.
Herring also admitted on Thursday to killing cousins Regina Herring, Rhonda Herring and aunt Julie Falzarano earlier that day, according to WCAX.
Police said Herring shot Sobel twice with a .270 caliber hunting rifle outside the state department for Children and Families in Barre. The next day, police were called to a home in the nearby town of Berlin, Vermont, where they found the bodies of the three murdered family members.
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The defense had initially pursued a dismissal of the case on the grounds that Herring was incompetent, but they dropped that pursuit in February, according to the Burlington Free Press. Herring’s lawyer, David Sleigh, said the plea agreement allowed her to have a chance at being released “at some point,” on parole, according to the newspaper. “What we avoided was a conviction on any of the aggravated murders, which would have resulted in a mandatory life without parole,” Sleigh said, according to the Burlington Free Press.
Herring pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder. According to assistant attorney general John Treadwell, the plea still allows the prosecution to pursue a life sentence, ABC reports. “In exchange for taking the mandatory life without parole sentence under aggravated murder off the table the state obtains four murder convictions and retains the possibility of seeking and retaining a life without parole sentence at the sentence hearing,” Treadwell said.
Police said that upon being arrested, Herring laughed and made small talk with police, the Burlington Free Press reported back in 2015.
In the written plea agreement, Herring said she had suffered from “significant mental health disease” throughout her life, but is not suffering now, according to ABC News.