Bennington man arrested for 2019 murder of woman in Searsburg

Following a nearly three-year investigation, the Vermont State Police on Wednesday, June 1 arrested a suspect in the 2019 homicide of a woman whose remains were found in a shallow grave in Searsburg.

Deven D. Moffitt, 32, of Bennington was taken into custody on a charge of second-degree murder in the killing of Jessica Hildenbrandt, 43, of Ballston Spa, New York. Police from multiple agencies initially attempted to arrest Moffitt outside an apartment complex on South Street in Bennington when he ran from the authorities. Two troopers each deployed one less-than lethal round but were unsuccessful in stopping the suspect, and a chase ensued that ended when detectives tackled Moffitt near 126 Jefferson Avenue. No injuries were reported in the arrest.

The investigation began Sept. 17, 2019, when a man reported finding what appeared to be a human jawbone at a gravel pit on Somerset Road in Searsburg. Subsequent investigation by the Vermont State Police uncovered additional human remains at the site. In July 2020, the Vermont Forensic Laboratory successfully identified the victim as Hildenbrandt through DNA analysis, and in September 2020, the Vermont Chief Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death a homicide.

Detectives determined that Hildenbrandt and Moffitt had been in a relationship while Moffitt was incarcerated in Vermont on a previous conviction. In March 2019, Hildenbrandt reported to the Windsor County State’s Attorney’s Office and later the Vermont State Police that she feared for her life if Moffitt were to be released from prison. The state police assigned a detective to the case who interviewed Hildenbrandt, but she ultimately stopped cooperating with the investigation, and law enforcement was unable to pursue the matter further.

After the discovery and identification of Hildenbrandt’s remains, the Vermont State Police learned that Hildenbrandt had posted bail for Moffitt on July 8, 2019, in a newly filed criminal case. Evidence in the Hildenbrandt case indicates she was killed in mid-July 2019.

In the course of the complex, lengthy investigation, detectives spoke with numerous witnesses and associates of Hildenbrandt and Moffitt; analyzed cellphone calling, text-message and location data; executed digital search warrants; and reviewed call records from the Department of Corrections.

The Vermont State Police worked closely with the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office throughout the investigation. Agencies that participated in Moffitt’s arrest Wednesday morning were the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit, Bureau of Criminal Investigations, Tactical Services Unit and troopers from the Field Force Division; the Bennington Police Department; the FBI; and Homeland Security Investigations.

Moffitt was processed at the Shaftsbury Barracks after his arrest and ordered jailed without bail at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland pending arraignment June 2 in Bennington.

Categories: Crime

2 replies »

  1. Out of the three “B”‘s, not surprising. All extremist, radical, left politics. Great job again, politicos!

    1.) Burlington
    2.) Brattleboro
    3.) Bennington

  2. Looks like another catch and release success story. Moffitt was charged with attempted murder in Bennington County on prior incident. Drug charges in Massachusetts. Now he graduated to murder. When I came to Vermont in 1996 a store robbery or a habitual offender charge was rare. Common events now. Vermont and it’s progressive government could care less about crime victims.

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