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: Messenger Article On Kenny Jerome July 8, 2005  ( 4111 )
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« : July 08, 2005, 03:29:59 PM »

Investigators mum about suspicious Sheldon death
By Messenger Staff

The above photo of Kenny Jerome, taken around 1990 is courtesy of Mary Kay Raymond

SHELDON A farm worker fatally shot in Sheldon Thursday had been threatened last year and signed an affidavit to that affect in a now closed court case.

Kenneth  Jerome,  33,  of   Sheldon, was found dead outside a barn at the Diamond Hill Custom Heifers Farm yesterday at about 12:50 p.m. with a gunshot wound to the chest.

According to Franklin County State's Attorney Jim Hughes, no weapon was found at the scene. An autopsy is being performed today to determine the type of gun used in the killing, Hughes said. As was the case on Thursday, police with search dogs were out in the fields surrounding the farm this morning. Hughes said officers were combing the hills with metal detectors looking for "metallic evidence."

"I'm hopeful an arrest will be coming soon," Hughes said this morning. "We need to find hard evidence to link any suspect to the shooting. They are trying to figure out potential motives."

The East Sheldon Road has been the subject of police and arson investigators interest in the past.

Jerome was linked romantically with Jennifer Miller, 27, the ex-wife of Dennis Harrness, 35, also of Sheldon, who was convicted in January of counseling Miller to burn their Sheldon mobile home in 2001. Miller and Harness were divorced in April 2003.

Miller was the primary witness and received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony.  Miller and Jerome have a daughter, who was born last November.

In April, Harrness received a two-to-five-year suspended sentence.

The allegations against Dennis Harrness surfaced during an investigation into a June 12, 2003 barn fire at the Diamond Hill Heifers farm, owned by Terry Magnan.  That fire was contained to a hay shaft.

Miller testified that the members of  the Harness family conspired to commit multiple arsons dating back to 1996. The aim, the woman told authorities, was to collect insurance money on the property and on others they were acquiring.

Harrness, also of East Sheldon Road, is set to appear in court again on Aug. 1 for allegedly setting fire to his brother's home in 1999. A jury draw in the case is set for Aug. 2.

The Messenger could not confirm whether Jerome was scheduled to testify in that case.

A Vermont District Court clerk this morning confirmed that Dennis Harrness had signed in with the court today, as was required by his conditions of probation.

Jerome also gave a statement to police on April 2, 2004 that he and Miller were threatened by Harrness's brother, Thomas, following Dennis's 2003 arrest.

According to court documents, Miller and Jerome said Thomas Harrness, whose home is also on East Sheldon Road, began threatening Miller in November 2003, but the situation worsened in March of last year. She said Thomas repeatedly drove by her residence, screaming, swearing profusely and sticking up his middle finger at her.

On multiple occasions, Miller said, Harrness formed his hand into the shape of a gun and pretended to shoot her.

Jerome corroborated Miller's concerns in a verbal and signed statement he gave police, according to court papers.

"Miller was with her boyfriend Kenny Jerome leaving her residence when they observed (Thomas) Harrness parked at the end of her driveway," the police affidavit reads. "She advised he also pretended to shoot at them with fingers again."

According to court papers, Jerome signed a statement given to police in the case.

Miller told police Harrness also crossed into her driving lane on March 15, causing her to go off the road, according to allegations found in court records.

"He was flipping me the finger, yelling and screaming at me," Miller told police. She said Thomas threatened to shoot and kill her, and that "payback was a bitch."

In Sept. 2004, Thomas Harrness pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stalking when the original felony charges of obstruction of justice and attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon were dismissed. District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith gave Harrness a nine-12 month suspended sentence and he was released on probation.

Hughes said rumors linking any suspect to the shooting are useless.

"You can't arrest a whole family," Hughes said. "You can't arrest on conjecture, you need hard evidence and that's what they're working on, not rumors, conjecture or suspicion."

Lt. Rob Evans, Vermont State Police barracks commander in St. Albans, this morning had little to say at the scene of the shooting.

"We're not going to compromise the investigation," said Evans, when pressed for further information.

This morning police cruisers blocked both ends of the farm's circular driveway keeping away media and a throng of motorists who were passing by.

The state's mobile command bus was at the scene, but Evans declined to say how many officers were at the farm.

Dianna Benoit, owner of the Sheldon Creek Market, today said Jerome was a regular customer and a nice guy. She said last year he picked up a Christmas tree for a neighbor who was having a tough time.

"The guy had no enemies," she said. "He just wasn't an enemy-making kind of guy."

To read a couple of articles written on the court cases written and reported in the St. Albans Messenger last January 6th and 7th, 2005 click on the following links.
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