Father: Killing of Vermont social worker ‘like a soap opera’

Jody Herring is led out of court after her arraignment in Vermont Superior Court in Barre, Vt., Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. The Vermont woman charged with killing a social worker because she was upset about losing custody of her 9-year-old daughter pleaded not guilty on Monday and was ordered held without bail. (Toby Talbot/Times Argus via AP, Pool)
Jody Herring is led out of court after her arraignment in Vermont Superior Court in Barre, Vt., Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. The Vermont woman charged with killing a social worker because she was upset about losing custody of her 9-year-old daughter pleaded not guilty on Monday and was ordered held without bail. (Toby Talbot/Times Argus via AP, Pool)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) – A man who shares a 9-year-old daughter with a woman accused of killing a Vermont social worker said Wednesday that he feels bad for the victim’s family.

Edward Szczebak spoke to The Associated Press in his first public comments since Department for Children and Families worker Lara Sobel was shot to death Aug. 7 as she left a state office building in Barre, Vermont. His daughter’s mother, Jody Herring, is charged with killing Sobel because she was upset about losing custody of the girl. Hours after Szczebak spoke about the killing, an ex-boyfriend of Herring’s was taken into custody with a gun outside a store, police said.

Herring has pleaded not guilty in Sobel’s slaying. Police also believe Herring shot and killed three of her own relatives before killing Sobel, but charges have not been filed in those deaths.

Szczebak said at his home in Springfield, Massachusetts, that he doesn’t understand why Sobel was killed.

“It’s like a soap opera,” he said.

He declined to talk about his family.

On Wednesday night, Vermont state police said a former boyfriend of Herring’s drew a gun outside a convenience store, where he seemed agitated, and was taken into custody. They didn’t say if Henry Premont’s behavior was related to Sobel’s slaying and Herring’s arrest.

They said Premont, of Williamstown, Vermont, was taken into custody outside the store in Barre Town, Vermont, where they found him after getting a call from a relative saying that he was sitting in a vehicle with a gun.

Authorities said that when troopers approached Premont he drew a handgun from inside his shirt. Troopers drew their weapons, more officers and a crisis negotiator arrived and the man surrendered, they said. No one was injured.

Premont was in custody Wednesday night and couldn’t be reached for comment. A telephone call to his home rang unanswered.

Earlier Wednesday, DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz said social workers and others in his department and throughout the Agency of Human Services were moving forward after Sobel’s death. He attended a meeting at the Barre office this week with Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and Agency Secretary Hal Cohen.

“Now, we are needing to grieve but also move on,” Schatz said.

He said many of the social workers and others are bothered by what they feel is disrespectful treatment by some members of the public, especially on some social media websites.

“We need to take a stand against hateful speech,” Schatz said.

The DCF has dealt with recent criticisms over its handling of cases, including the deaths of two toddlers who had been involved with the agency. A new child safety law shifts the state’s priority in protecting children, focusing on their well-being instead of on an imperative to reunite them with their families.

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Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner and writer Wilson Ring contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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