WESTFORD, Vt. - WESTFORD, Vt. (AP) — A woman fatally shot her Alzheimer's disease-suffering mother three years ago, burned the body and then had her son bury the remains — which she had placed in a suitcase — before filing a missing person report, authorities said Thursday.
Jeanne Sevigny, 59, killed her mother, Mary Wilcox, because she had become "a drag," prosecutors said as they announced her arrest on a charge of second-degree murder.
Investigators said Sevigny burned the body in her backyard and brought the remains in a suitcase to her son, who then buried it in the woods behind an elementary school. She told police in November 2006 that the 78-year-old disappeared after overhearing her talking about putting her in a nursing home, authorities said.
Sevigny's son, Greg Sevigny, 30, was charged with unlawful disposal of a body.
Jeanne Sevigny's lawyer, John St. Francis, said Sevigny found her mother with a pistol and was trying to wrest it from her when it went off, shooting Wilcox in the chest. Sevigny then panicked, St. Francis said.
"The poor decision-making afterwards is why we're here," he said. "Had she taken different steps, I don't think we'd be here now. But it's certainly not a homicide. It's an accident."
Prosecutor T.J. Donovan, however, said the evidence suggests otherwise.
"The action of burning a body in a backyard, putting the remains in a suitcase and burying that suitcase on the grounds of an elementary school are inconsistent with an accident," he said.
Asked about the motive, he said: "Annoyance. A drag. An elderly woman with Alzheimer's."
Wilcox's remains have not been recovered. Investigators descended on Westford Elementary School on Thursday to look for it.
The break in the case came when Greg Sevigny's ex-girlfriend — who had recently obtained a protective order against him — went to police two weeks ago, a state police detective wrote in an affidavit. The woman told investigators that Greg Sevigny told her that his mother showed up at his workplace after Wilcox's disappearance with a large plastic case and told him to get rid of it.
When asked what was inside, Jeanne Sevigny said: "Your grandmother," according to the affidavit by Sgt. Lance Burnham.
The girlfriend told police she never reported it because Greg Sevigny had threatened to kill her if she ever said anything.
When interviewed by police on Wednesday, Jeanne Sevigny said she had found her mother with the gun and that they had struggled over it before it fired, but she didn't know which of them had pulled the trigger. Sevigny said it was all her fault, according to Burnham.
St. Francis said Wilcox had attempted suicide in the past, and that her daughter's actions in trying to disarm her were out of fear that she was trying to kill herself. The weapon believed to have been used — a pistol — hasn't been found.
Greg Sevigny told police his mother told him Wilcox had committed suicide. He said the family had been talking about putting Wilcox in a home "because she was getting to be too much," the affidavit said.
Shackled and wearing a winter coat, Sevigny, of Westford, looked nervously at her husband, Michael Sevigny, as she was ushered into court Thursday. She pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
He pleaded not guilty Thursday and was released to the custody of Michael Sevigny, who sat in the front row of the gallery but had little to say about the allegations.
"It's just all confused," he said.
His son declined to comment afterward.