updated 10/8/2008 9:15:56 PM ET 2008-10-09T01:15:56

Defense lawyers entered not-guilty pleas Wednesday for the uncle of a slain Vermont girl and told the judge their strategy depends on whether prosecutors choose to seek the death penalty.

Michael Jacques, 42, chose to skip the arraignment on federal charges that accuse him in the death of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett in June. An indictment last week charged him with kidnapping resulting in death — with special circumstances that would make him eligible for the death penalty — and five child pornography counts.

Brooke's stepmother, Janet Bennett, said outside court that she had mixed emotions about the possibility of the death penalty.

"I don't know if the death penalty is what he deserves. I want to see him suffer. That's what I want to see," she said.

Brooke, a seventh-grader from Braintree, disappeared June 25. Her body was found a week later in a shallow grave. Prosecutors say Jacques, a convicted sex offender, coerced another girl into aiding his plot by claiming to be part of a child-sex club that sometimes chose girls for "termination."

In court, public defender Michael Desautels and co-counsel Jean deSales Barrett — a New Jersey attorney who specializes in capital cases — told Judge William Sessions III that their strategy in filing pretrial motions would hinge on whether the case involves the death penalty.

Whether to seek it will be decided by the U.S. attorney general, but the pending change in the presidency has cast uncertainty on how quickly the decision will be made.

Barrett also said their strategy is linked to where Jacques is held, currently in a corrections center in St. Albans. The defense attorneys said Jacques was about to be moved, but they didn't say where, and they wouldn't comment after the hearing.

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