Police weigh charges in missing woman case
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | November 15,2012
A police investigation into the disappearance last week of a Fair Haven woman with diminished mental capacity is finished but it will be up to the Rutland County state’s attorney to determine whether a criminal act took place.
Jessica Flanders, 31, was found unharmed Nov. 6 in Dixon, Mo., and has since returned to Vermont where she lives under the legal custody of her parents.
Flanders, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, disappeared from the Diamond Run Mall on Nov. 4.
A subsequent search conducted by local, state and federal law enforcement indicated she was in the company of Benjamin Davis, 35, of Dixon, Mo., who drove with his two children to Vermont to pick Flanders up. When police in Missouri stopped the car that Flanders was riding in, Davis was the driver.
The rendezvous was unknown to Flanders’ parents who had never heard of Davis.
But through interviews with Flanders’ acquaintances and the use of social media websites, police said they learned that the pair were in a “relationship” although they said it wasn’t clear whether it was a romantic relationship.
While an adult, Flanders has the mental development of a teenager, police say, and her movements are controlled by her parents.
The trip to Missouri was made without their consent and Flanders’ family had no contact with her until police took her into custody.
But whether Davis’ actions constituted a crime remains uncertain, Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard said Wednesday.
Davis was released after he was interviewed by police in Missouri but law enforcement in that state and Vermont have continued investigating the case.
On Wednesday, Benard said the investigators have completed their work but it remains unclear whether a crime took place.
“If there’s a clear offense we would make an arrest,” he said. “But there’s a question of intent and whether Brian Davis knew he was breaking the law.”
Adding another wrinkle to the investigation is Davis’ own diminished mental capacity which, while not as extensive as Flanders’ condition, raises doubts about his ability to understand the illegality of his actions, Benard said.
The sheriff said he planned to present the case to Rutland County State’s Attorney Marc Brierre this week so the prosecutor could decide whether to bring any criminal charges.
“We’re going to put the pieces of the puzzle in place and let him decide,” Benard said.