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Lawyer for woman suspected in Vermont teacher death wants another competency hearing

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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vermont — A Vermont woman facing trial for the 2012 killing of a St. Johnsbury teacher still wants to plead guilty, but her lawyer said Tuesday he wants a second mental evaluation so a judge would be sure she is competent to make such a decision before allowing her to change her plea.

Attorney Brian Marsicovetere said that despite a court-ordered evaluation that found his client, Patricia Prue, competent, he wants another one by a doctor selected by the defense.

He told the judge that he appreciates the court is anxious to go forward with the trial as scheduled in March. But if Prue is found competent a second time, he expects she will still want to plead guilty and "I do not see a trial," Marsicovetere said by speaker phone.

Prue, who also wasn't in court Tuesday, is scheduled to be tried on an aggravated murder charge in the 2012 death of Melissa Jenkins. The teacher was lured from her home and killed, authorities say.

Prue's husband, Allen Prue, was found guilty last year of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. She has said she wants to plead guilty so that she can resume written contact with him.

Caledonia County State's Attorney Lisa Warren said in court Tuesday that a plea agreement has not been reached that would allow Prue to plead guilty, although the prosecution and defense have had conversations about the possibility.

Warren said she would be ready for trial in March, but said she didn't know if another competency evaluation and a hearing could be held before the trial date.

"I just want to see some resolution for the family, whatever that might be," Warren said after the hearing.

The attorneys also said that if a second evaluation found Prue incompetent, it could delay the trial.

Judge Robert Bent asked the attorneys during the hearing if a plea agreement could be reached if Prue is required to make a "frank assumption of responsibility." He said that if Prue is found to have a mental illness that wouldn't necessarily mean she is incompetent to make a decision regarding her plea.

Bent also asked if it would be permissible for Prue to plead guilty in exchange for being able to write her husband.

Warren said she was told Department of Corrections officials would have a say in whether she could write her husband even if she's given that assurance in a plea agreement. Warren said she and Marsicovetere could work out the details.

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