EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 29, 2013

Jesse Brooks' mother fights for his freedom

Jesse Brooks in prison for role in 2005 murder

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — MANCHESTER — For seven years, Lorraine Brooks has remained silent as she watched her husband and son sentenced to prison for the murder of Derry handyman Jack Reid.

But she broke that silence yesterday, speaking publicly about the case for the first time as she fights to get her son Jesse Brooks out of an Arizona prison.

Lorraine Brooks and her hired team of private investigators spoke of their efforts to free the former Londonderry man at a press conference yesterday that lasted nearly three hours.

“Today, I beg of you to listen to the miscarriage of justice that my son, Jesse Brooks, has suffered through,” she told reporters.

Jesse Brooks, 36, is serving a 15- to 30-year sentence for helping plot the murder of Derry resident Jack Reid in 2005. His father, John “Jay” Brooks, 60, is serving a life sentence for killing Reid with a sledgehammer in a Deerfield barn, believing his former employee stole from him.

But Lorraine Brooks, who has since divorced her husband, was only speaking on her son’s behalf yesterday. She said she was advised by lawyers for years not to comment, but could not maintain her silence any longer.

“With respect to my son, I have decided that I absolutely have to call attention to the travesty and injustice that has befallen him,” she said. “While I always wanted to speak out, I trusted the hired professionals who had more experience than myself on such matters.”

She and her five-member investigative team insist Jesse Brooks was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder based on lies told by other defendants in the case. They also cited misconduct on behalf of prosecutor Janice Rundles and the New Hampshire attorney general ‘s office, led at the time by now U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“The attention around this case helped catapult Kelly Ayotte into a seat in the U.S. Senate,” Lorraine Brooks said.

Rundles could not be reached for comment, but Ayotte issued a statement yesterday refuting the accusations of misconduct.

“That’s absurd,” she said. “The charges against him were brought based on the evidence of the crimes he committed.”

After reading a statement to reporters, Lorraine Brooks said little. Most of the questions she was asked were instead fielded by her investigative team.

She said although her son is innocent, she did not know if the same could be said for her ex-husband, who sits in a New Hampshire State Prison cell.

“I really couldn’t tell you at all,” she said. “My focus now is my son.”

Lorraine Brooks, who lives in Las Vegas, said she visits her son in prison every weekend.

She said he asked her to keep looking for evidence that would exonerate him.

“Mom, keep digging, keep digging,” she said her son told her. “I had nothing to do with it.”

Last week, his attorneys filed a motion in Merrimack Superior Court in their quest for a new trial, based on new evidence they claim to have uncovered.

The investigators, led by Paul Ciolino of Chicago, said Jesse Brooks was being tried for the crimes of his father and was wrongly accused by Rundles and revenge-seeking suspects in the case, including Joseph Vrooman.

“It was lie after lie on top of lie,” Ciolino said.

Vrooman, of Whitville, Tenn., reached a plea deal with prosecutors and testified against Jesse Brooks. He was sentenced to 17 and a half to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit capital murder and hindering apprehension. Michael Benton and Robin Knight also were convicted in the case.

Vrooman testified that Jesse Brooks participated in a meeting to plan the murder, but Ciolino and the other investigators said that wasn’t true.

The investigators told of how the younger Brooks, who they said was addicted to prescription painkillers, was in a Nevada courtroom for a drug case the morning that meeting took place. From there, he made several others stops that morning, they said.

One of these stops was a Walgreens pharmacy, where a time-stamped receipt proves he was getting a prescription — not plotting a murder, they said.

Foresnic scientist Dr. Brent Turvey, also hired by Lorraine Brooks, said the evidence in the case only involves statements made against Jesse Brooks.

“There is no physical evidence tying Jesse Brooks to this case,” he said. “Those confessions are not supported by the physical evidence.”

The investigators played video and audio tapes from witnesses in the case to prove Jesse Brooks is innocent. They included a phone conversation between Benton, who also hit Reid with the sledgehammer, and his mother, in which Benton said Jesse Brooks was not involved.

Other investigators who spoke yesterday were National Investigation Bureau president Joseph Moura and retired FBI special agent Stephen Moore.