The investigation of the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl zeroed in on her uncle Monday, with police searching his home while he was being arraigned on sex charges in an unrelated case, authorities said.
Michael Jacques, a registered sex offender who was one of the last people seen with Brooke Bennett before she vanished, pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual assault and was held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Police hadn't named him as a suspect in Bennett's disappearance, and wouldn't answer questions Monday until a late afternoon briefing.
One girl says she was threatened
The other girl, also a relative of Jacques', says he assaulted her over a five-year period, beginning when she was 9 years old and ending a few weeks ago, Orange County State's Attorney Will Porter said.
Authorities released an affidavit in which State Police Detective Sgt. William Jenkins said the girl told police that when she was 9 or 10, she was told — by telephone call and in a note left under her pillow — that she had been selected for enrollment in a "program for sex" and that Jacques was to be her trainer.
The girl, identified only as "A.R." in court papers, said she was told two other girls also were in the program. "The first who does it lives and the second gets her throat cut," she told police, according to the affidavit.
At the home of Jacques, 42, in Randolph, Vermont State Police called in state police from Connecticut and Massachusetts and used a helicopter and dogs to search the area.
Girl may have met someone online
Jacques, who is married to a sister of Brooke's mother, dropped Brook off at a convenience store in Randolph on Wednesday.
She had told family members she was going to meet a friend and visit a hospitalized relative of the friend but police believe that was a lie. Investigators believe Brooke may have been bound for a meeting with an unknown individual with whom she had been communicating through MySpace, the online social networking service.
Surveillance video from the store showed Brooke and Jacques leaving the store and going in separate directions.
Brooke, who just finished seventh grade, has not been seen since.
The prosecutor had argued against the judge's decision to grant bail.
Jacques has 1993 convictions for kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault and there is "a threat of prejudicial violence to this particular juvenile complainant," said Porter, in arguing for no bail. "Her personal safety was threatened."
He also noted the serious nature of the crime, which could lead to a life prison term, and said Jacques had violated the terms of his probation.