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Witness testifies millionaire grateful he killed handyman

Joseph Vrooman pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Joseph Vrooman pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Associated Press / September 27, 2008
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BRENTWOOD, N.H. - A man who says he was hired by millionaire John Brooks to help kill Derry handyman Jack Reid testified yesterday that he, Brooks, and others took many steps to cover up the crime afterward.

Joseph Vrooman, 52, said that after Reid's dump truck, with his body inside, was left in a store parking lot in Saugus, Mass., he, Brooks, and suspect Robin Knight began worrying that they would get caught.

They were so concerned, Vrooman testified, that they returned to the lot to see if they might be able to move the truck or take the body and dispose of it in Tennessee or upstate New York. But they had thrown away Reid's keys and figured it would be impossible to move the body or hotwire the truck without getting caught, he said.

"So it was decided that we would just go back and tear up the barn and get rid of evidence," he said, referring to the barn in Deerfield where prosecutors say Reid was beaten to death on June 27, 2005.

Brooks, 56, founder of surgical instrument maker Polyvac Inc., is being tried in Rockingham County Superior Court on a capital murder charge.

Vrooman, of Las Vegas, has pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy and faces 17 1/2 to 35 years in prison. Prosecution witness Michael Benton, 32, also made a plea deal, while Knight, 57, of North Hampton, and Brooks's son, Jesse, 31, of Las Vegas, are awaiting trial. Jesse Brooks is not accused of being at the scene.

John Brooks, also of Las Vegas, allegedly hired the men to kill Reid, 57, who he believed had stolen from him and had shot at his son two years earlier.

Vrooman said after going back to Reid's truck, he, Brooks, and Knight went to the barn to rip up the floor in the closet where Reid had been beaten with a hammer.

"We all figured blood had seeped down into the cracks; we were trying to hide where this happened," Vrooman said.

Vrooman said he also helped Brooks fill two to three garbage bags with the bloodied clothes of the four men involved.

He also smashed Reid's cellphone and a second phone used in the slaying and put them into the bags, he said. Vrooman and Brooks drove the bags to the home of a friend of Brooks, where the garbage was put out on the curb for pickup.

With the evidence destroyed or disposed of, Vrooman said, he returned to Las Vegas with Brooks and Knight. Vrooman testified earlier that Brooks offered him $10,000 to kill Reid. He received $2,500 that day, but Brooks told him more was coming, Vrooman said.

He also testified that Brooks thanked the three men involved in the killing as they rode back to New Hampshire after dumping Reid's body in Massachusetts.

"He seemed happy that Mr. Reid was dead and that we helped him do it," Vrooman said. "He thanked us all for doing it."

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