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BENNINGTON — A Sunderland man who admitted killing an 81-year-old woman at her Arlington home in January 2017 will serve a prison sentence of 30 years to life.

Timothy Butler, 34, "made significant choices" the night of the murder, "all of which were bad," Bennington County Superior Court Judge William Cohen said shortly before announcing the sentence at the end of an five-hour hearing on Friday.

Butler pleaded guilty this past April to the second-degree murder of Helen Jones at her home on Buck Hill Road in Arlington.

The night of Jan. 2, 2017, Butler, carrying a 6-inch knife, broke into the home of Jones, who lived alone and for whom Butler had previously performed "yard work and odd jobs," according to court documents. After Jones called out his name, Butler stabbed her more than a dozen times, "to prevent her from implicating him in a burglary," Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage said.

Butler was arrested and charged for the murder more than two months after Jones' body was discovered. This delay in apprehending Butler caused the Arlington community to experience "pervasive fear," Marthage said.

Jones, who moved to the United States from Ireland decades ago, was described in court as having lived an active, social life. In impact statements read aloud, friends and relatives shared their surprise and grief at the unexpected, grisly murder.

Teresa Jones, one of the victim's three children, said she is at times "consumed" with questions about her mother's final minutes alive. "Was she in pain?" Jones asked. "Did she call out?"

Jones and her two siblings, who also spoke at the hearing, asked Cohen to impose the maximum possible sentence.

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The plea agreement established the upper bound of Butler's sentence as life in prison. Under the deal's terms, the defense could argue for no less than 25 years in prison, and the prosecution could argue for a minimum of no more than 30 years, said Marthage.

Brian Marsicovetere, Butler's attorney, unsuccessfully asked the judge to set the sentence's lower limit at 25 years, arguing that it would give the Vermont Department of Corrections maximum flexibility in determining an appropriate release date for his client.

Marsicovetere described Butler as a "broken man" who suffered from depression, anxiety and drug addictions. The deaths of Butler's infant son and paternal grandfather in quick succession more than a decade ago, as well as the later unraveling of his marriage and the loss of custody of his children, were also cited in court as circumstances that negatively impacted him.

In a statement toward the end of the proceeding, Butler said he had "allowed panic and fear to take over" the night of the murder and was "truly sorry" for his actions.

No elderly person living alone in Vermont or elsewhere should have to worry about "this type of offense," said Cohen. When Jones identified Butler following his forced entry into her home, rather than immediately "taking responsibility for an improper act, [Butler] panicked and acted with extreme rage," the judge said before issuing the sentence.

Following the hearing, Marthage called the sentence "appropriate."

Marsicovetere said his client "feels absolutely awful, and it's just an absolutely sad case."

Contact Luke Nathan at