EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 25, 2013

New trial requested for Jesse Brooks

By Doug Ireland

---- — Another chapter is about to unfold in one of the state’s more notorious murder cases.

Most thought the case was closed in the 2005 murder of Derry handyman Jack Reid.

But Las Vegas resident Lorraine Brooks, the former wife of convicted killer John “Jay” Brooks, and mother of their son Jesse, claims she has new evidence.

It was a case made for a TV movie — a multi-millionaire suspect in the elder Brooks, hired thugs who carried out the murder-for-hire plot he concocted, a drug-addicted son who helped plan the brutal killing, and a fall from prominence for the entire family.

Lorraine Brooks, who divorced her husband after his conviction, is planning a press conference Monday. She intends to proclaim her son’s innocence and is seeking a new trial on his behalf.

As for her former husband, he’s guilty, her spokesman said.

Jesse Brooks, now 36, sits in an Arizona prison, serving a 15- to 30-year sentence for conspiracy to commit murder.

His father, 60, is in state prison here, serving a life sentence for bludgeoning his former employee to death with a sledgehammer in a Deerfield horse barn.

For more than a year, a team of investigators, financed by Lorraine Brooks, has been poring over evidence in the case, reviewing video and audio tapes, talking to the players involved, discovering receipts and other documents they claim will show Jesse Brooks was an innocent victim in a complicated plot to kill Reid.

Lorraine Brooks and her team accuse investigators and prosecutors of lying, the jury of being stacked with people unfriendly to the defense, the witnesses against Jesse Brooks of lying on the stand and a poor defense team.

On a website dedicated to her cause, justiceforjessebrooks.org, Lorraine Brooks points the finger of blame at everyone but her son.

She writes of solitary, six-hour drives through the Arizona desert to see her son for two hours a week, and credits him for giving her the will to go on.

“I try to stay upbeat,” she wrote, “but it’s usually Jesse who is the one really able to keep my spirits high.”

She hopes he will be free long before his sentence is served.

A motion seeking a new trial for the former Londonderry man was filed Wednesday in Merrimack Superior Court.

“John Brooks was found guilty, Jesse Brooks is innocent,” said Casey Sherman, Lorraine Brooks’s spokesman. “This is a motion of innocence for Jesse Brooks. It suggests Jesse did not have a proper defense at the trial.”

Private investigator Paul Ciolino of Chicago said yesterday he will prove Jesse Brooks was wrongfully convicted.

The new evidence investigators claim to have discovered includes time-stamped receipts that show Jesse Brooks was in a Las Vegas courtroom answering to drug charges when he was alleged to have participated in a meeting to plan Reid’s murder.

New evidence will prove co-conspirator Joseph Vrooman lied about Jesse Brooks’ involvement, Sherman said.

Ciolino, who took the case in December 2011, said he believes the truth will finally be revealed.

“We have totally debunked everything that was alleged in the case about Jesse,” Ciolino said. “They were flat out lying and making up testimony. This is going to be full disclosure.”

He accuses prosecutor Janice Rundles of misconduct, saying she misled the judge and jury into believing Jesse Brooks was guilty.

“The jury and the judge got hoodwinked in this case,” he said.

Rundles, an assistant attorney general, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Jesse Brooks was convicted of connecting his father, a multimillionaire business owner, with two of his childhood friends, Michael Benton and Anthony Carter, to carry out Reid’s murder.

The motive was pretty simple. John Brooks believed Reid had stolen some of his belongings from a moving truck in 2003. He spent the next two years plotting Reid’s death.

Carter backed away from the plan, but Benton helped John Brooks bludgeon Reid with the sledgehammer after he was lured to the Deerfield barn.

They wrapped Reid’s body in plastic and left it in the back of his own truck in a parking lot in Saugus, Mass.

There were other players, too, also convicted.

Vrooman, of Whitville, Tenn., cut a 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.

Robin Knight of North Hampton was convicted of accomplice to first- and second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

Benton and Vrooman both struck plea deals with prosecutors. Benton, of Manchester, was given 33 years to life in state prison for pleading guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit capital murder.

Vrooman, Benton and Knight were all present for Reid’s murder, but only Benton and John Brooks struck the 57-year-old man with the sledgehammer.

Jesse Brooks’s trial lasted more than three weeks and the jury deliberated for more than 10 hours before delivering the verdict: guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

As the jury filed out, Jesse Brooks shook his head, then turned and waved to his mother and other relatives before being led from the courtroom.

He appealed his conviction to the state Supreme Court, an appeal rejected in late 2011.

“Jesse now spends his days in an 8-by-6-foot Arizona state prison cell which is bitterly cold in the winter and can reach 117 degrees in summer,” the website states. “Jesse has not, however, given up hope for a promise of a life.”

His mother hopes to give him just that.

Staff writer Jo-Anne MacKenzie contributed to this report.