'Widow' of Co-op murder victim charged with forgery
BRATTLEBORO -- An arrest warrant has been issued for the woman who claimed to be the wife of Michael Martin, who was murdered at the Brattleboro Food Co-op on Aug. 9, 2011.
According to documents filed with the Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, Jennifer Dusenbery, 37, formerly of Dummerston, received nearly $70,000 in survivor benefits she was not entitled to. She has been charged with one felony count of forgery and if convicted could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Martin was shot and killed by Richard Gagnon, 60, formerly of Marlboro, four days after Martin advised Gagnon to take a severance package and leave his employment as the Co-op's beer and wine manager. In late October 2012, Gagnon received a sentence of 20 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to Martin's murder.
According to court documents, in early May 2012, Dusenbery convinced Mary Cain, a local Justice of the Peace, to sign and backdate a marriage certificate, indicating Cain had officiated at a wedding ceremony joining Dusenbery and Martin on Oct. 31, 2010.
Cain declined to speak with the Vermont State Police, but in a written statement, Cain told investigators she did not perform, nor was she present at, the ceremony.
During the investigation, which began in July 2012, Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy told Detective Trooper Tyson Kinney that Cain approached her and told her that she had signed the document.
This was confirmed by Dusenbery herself, who, when contacted via telephone on July 31, 2012, said she and Martin had been married in a private ceremony by a "spiritual" friend. Dusenbery told Kinney that she merely asked Cain to notarize the marriage certificate, attesting that the ceremony had occurred.
But, according to court documents, "Cain signed the document and back dated it to October 2010 to indicate that she was the person who had performed the ceremony ...."
Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver said she has found no basis for charges against Cain at this time.
Kinney also learned that prior to Cain signing the certificate, a Justice of the Peace in Woodford told Dusenbery that she "could not sign the marriage license because it would not be right and was illegal since she was not present for the ceremony."
"I questioned Dusenbery why she went to Cain after learning ... about it not being right and illegal," wrote Kinney. "Dusenbery would not acknowledge this when I brought it to her attention."
Dusenbery also denied receiving money from Martin's insurance company, though by the time she had spoken to Kinney, she had received a total of $69,415 in death benefits from Zurich Insurance Company, according to court documents, in a series of weekly installments that started on Sept. 8, 2011, and ended on April 24, 2012.
Since the phone conversation conducted in July 2012, investigators have not been able to contact Dusenbery, whose last known address was in Brea, Calif.
Martin's sister, JoAnn Berno, who was designated as the executor of his estate, told Kinney she began to get suspicious when she saw the will, dated December 2010, which indicated Dusenbery was Martin's "partner."
She told Kinney she did not know if a wedding was ever performed, though she had been invited to a party in October 2010, which she did not attend.
Berno also told Kinney that her brother was still married to a woman in Youngstown, N.Y. Though Martin had applied for a divorce from the woman, paperwork was not filed by the woman's attorney, which had kept the process from coming to completion.
"It saddens me to think that there are people in our society, and apparently in my family, that would go to such lengths to gain what is not theirs to gain," said Berno. "This tragedy continues for my family and I am ashamed of Jennifer and what she was able to do by manipulating the system."
Dusenbery told Kinney that a charity account had been established in Martin's name at Brattleboro Savings & Loan from which she drew from. Berno said she was especially upset at the way Dusenbery took advantage of the charity extended to her by people in Brattleboro and the surrounding region.
"I remember how grateful my family was when we learned how the Brattleboro community reached out to Jennifer in her time of need and now I can only feel shame for how she took advantage of what was available to her," said Berno. "Please know that Michael's family had no idea what kind of person Jennifer really was until Michael's death and my family never would have been part of her charade."
In April 2009, Dusenbery was charged with two counts of aggravated domestic assault and one count of disorderly conduct after she attacked Martin with a candlestick. She eventually pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was discharged from probation in April 2010. Dusenbery was also arrested for driving while intoxicated in Westmoreland, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2011, and had her license suspended for nine months.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.
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