Searsburg Remains Identified; Authorities Investigating as Homicide

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State Police are seeking information about Jessica Hildenbrandt's whereabouts last summer.
SEARSBURG, Vt. — The remains discovered last year at gravel pit on Somerset Road have been identified as Jessica Hildenbrandt, 43, of Ballston Spa, N.Y.
Authorities said on Monday that her death is being investigated as a homicide.
Hildenbrandt, who went by the nickname "Red,"  spent considerable time in Vermont, especially in and around Bennington, state police reported. She was last in touch with her family in July 2019. 
Someone came across a jawbone in the gravel pit on Sept. 17, 2019, and reported this to state police at the Shaftsbury barracks. The bone was taken to the chief medical examiner's office in Burlington and a search found more human remains at the site. 
Detectives Lt. John-Paul Schmidt and Sgt. Samuel Truex say in their report that DNA analysis and "extensive investigation" led to the positive idenfication of Hildebrandt. 
While the death has been ruled a homicide, the cause is currently undetermined.
Detectives with the State Police Criminal Division continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding this death. Police do not believe there is a threat to public safety.
Anyone who might have information that could be relevant to the investigation is asked to contact Truex at 802-442-5421 or at
Police would especially like to hear from anyone who thinks they might have seen Hildenbrandt in summer 2019.

Tags: homicide,   murder,   

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Ten Tips for Safely 'Decking those Halls' this Season

No matter what you’re celebrating this holiday season, lights, fireside gatherings and decorations are a common part of creating a festive mood.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 30 percent of all home fires and 38 percent of home fire deaths occur during the months of December, January, and February. While these fires result from a variety of sources, the Federal Emergency Management Agency notes that winter holiday fires are more severe than the average fire during the year across all loss measures and that holiday decoration and Christmas tree fires, in particular, are substantially more damaging than other fires.  These fires result in twice the injuries and five times the fatalities per fire as the average winter holiday home fire.  

Another common source of holiday injuries is falls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that approximately 160 decorating-related injuries occur each day in the U.S. during the holiday season. Almost half of those accidents involve falls which often lead to broken bones, concussions and pulled muscles.

To ensure you enjoy your holidays safely and to their fullest, follow these safety tips when decorating.

1. Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.

2. If you are buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators, and other sources of heat.

3. If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh. You can do this by gently pulling on a shoot with your thumb and fingers; if the tree is fresh, you should not have any needles come off in your hand. Before placing it in the tree stand, cut 2 inches off the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption (if you don’t have a saw, ask the person at the tree farm to do this for you). Be sure to water daily to keep it from drying out. If your home is especially warm or dry, you may need to add water more than once a day.

4. Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.

5. Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.

6. When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.

7. If using a ladder, be extra careful. Always inspect the ladder for any damage prior to using it. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction and follow the 1-to-4 rule for extension ladders: for every four feet the ladder rises, move the base out one foot from the structure.

8. Always keep three points of contact on the ladder: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.

9. If hanging items indoors, use a step ladder and make sure it’s on a level, stable surface. Never use furniture as a ladder.

10. Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of children. Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children. When possible, opt for flameless, rather than lighted, candles.

One last precaution to take before the holidays: test all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Lest you think that’s excessive, remember that a high percentage of home fire and home fire deaths occur during the upcoming months and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur during the winter. A simple test that takes just seconds can literally be lifesaving.

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