Local pair charged in child pornography case
MIDDLEBURY — Two former Middlebury residents on Tuesday pleaded innocent to possession of child pornography and other charges in Addison County Superior Court, criminal division, in connection with allegations involving a 9-year-old girl in incidents beginning in 2013, and concluding in 2015.
Jason H. Dukette, 37, currently of Rutland, was arraigned on charges of felony attempted lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, misdemeanor possession of child pornography, and a misdemeanor count of furnishing indecent material to a minor with a minor present.
Rena M. Gero, 33, also of Rutland, was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of child pornography — allegedly, a photo of a nude child and family member who was residing with her and Dukette while they were living in Addison County.
Middlebury Police Det. Kris Bowdish launched her investigation into the case on Sept. 30 of 2015, at the request of the Vermont Department for Children & Families (DCF). A DCF worker told Bowdish the young victim — now in foster care — wrote a letter to her foster mom alleging that Dukette had attempted to make her touch his genitals and would watch what she called “rape movies” in her presence, according to court records.
The girl also stated in her letter that she had not shared this news previously because she was scared Dukette would be sent to jail and then “get out and then come get us,” according to court records.
Bowdish interviewed the girl last fall — who at that point was 11. She alleged to Bowdish that she resided with Gero and Dukette for periods of time in homes in Brandon and then Middlebury.
The girl alleged to police that Dukette began treating her inappropriately when she was in first grade.
“Sometimes Jason would show me ‘rape movies’ and try to get me to touch his penis,” the girl alleged to Bowdish.
The victim told Bowdish the last of these alleged incidents occurred while she was in fourth grade and living in Middlebury, according to court records. She recounted the experience of walking past Dukette’s bedroom and allegedly seeing him watching a “rape movie,” according to Bowdish’s affidavit.
“As I walked past their bedroom, Jason came out and grabbed onto my arm and tried to make me touch his penis,” the girl alleged to Bowdish.
The girl said she kicked Dukette in the shin and ran out of the apartment, according to court records.
The victim said one of the “rape movies” she saw allegedly involved two naked girls and four naked boys, and “the boys were raping the girls,” according to court records.
She defined “rape” as a situation in which “someone is touching you somewhere and you ask them to stop and they won’t stop,” according to court records.
Bowdish executed a search warrant at a Leicester home on Nov. 17, 2015 and seized a movie titled, “The Last House on the Left,” a Samsung cell phone, and several other items allegedly belonging to Dukette and Gero, according to court records. Bowdish reported “The Last House on the Left” features no child pornography, but “images of violence and rape,” according to court records.
On Dec. 30, 2015, Bowdish received a report on a forensic study of the Samsung phone by the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). That report, according to Bowdish, revealed the seized cell phone “had been used to access several images of child pornography,” including a deleted web history of 13 videos titles, the least graphic of which was “young brother and sister in love,” according to Bowdish’s affidavit. And ICAC officials allegedly found six images “believed to contain child pornography,” according to court records.
Police said they determined the phone in question had been used by both Dukette and Gero. And further investigation by Bowdish revealed that Gero had allegedly opened the phone account using another person’s name, according to court records. Middlebury police records indicated that Gero had been arrested in 2014 for allegedly opening “several fraudulent Sprint cell phone accounts” in another person’s name, according to Bowdish’s affidavit.
Gero allegedly identified two photos of a young child in a bathtub as being the female victim, according to court records.
Gero told police she was not responsible for any of the pornographic images on the phone, adding it “must have been (Dukette),” according to court records.
Dukette, when questioned by authorities, also denied being responsible for the pornographic images on the phone, further alleging that it was Gero who took the photo of the child in the bathtub, according to Bowdish’s affidavit. Dukette also told Bowdish that he was never at home alone with the victim and that he does not watch child pornography, according to court records.
Addison County Superior Court Judge Samuel Hoar Jr., agreed to release the two defendants on conditions, including that they not contact the alleged victim and that they have no access to the Internet or cell phones capable of taking photos.
Hoar also agreed to a request from Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans that Dukette and Gero no longer be able to reside together, due to the potential of them influencing each other’s testimony in the case. Addison County Public Defender James Gratton — representing both defendants at Tuesday’s arraignment — said the judge’s decision could leave Dukette without a place to stay, since he does not have the option of residing with family.
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