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Longtime Rutland prosecutor Peter Neary is shown here in March 2005.
Photo: Albert J. Marro / File photo

Friends, colleagues mourn ‘dedicated, aggressive’ prosecutor

Longtime Rutland prosecutor Peter Neary was remembered Monday for his dedication and his faith.

Neary, who died unexpectedly at his home in Fair Haven on Sunday, believed strongly in both justice and redemption, his friends and colleagues said.

“He had a positive thing to say about everyone. He was just a positive guy,” said the Rev. Jim Lawrence, who oversees the parish at Our Lady of Seven Dolors Church in Fair Haven.

Lawrence said the 61-year-old Neary, who was chairman of the parish council and involved in a number of church activities, talked more than once about the rewards of working with the Rutland drug court, where his role as a deputy state’s attorney involved helping people with substance abuse issues rebuild their lives.

“Peter said he would meet people on the street who would come up to him and felt he could relate to them,” Lawrence said.

As the first judge to preside over Rutland’s drug court, Judge Nancy Corsones said she saw Neary’s heart-felt conviction for participants who — without the drug court — would be defendants in the criminal system.

“I really got to know Peter’s dedication during the pre drug court and, the drug court formative years. ... Peter rolled up his sleeves and helped to advance the criminal justice system at a very critical time in Rutland,” Corsones wrote in an email Monday.

After helping to design and implement the court, Corsones said Neary worked tirelessly to support those working through rehabilitation.

“I still remember when one of our drug court participants was very clearly in trouble. ... Peter came into court from Fair Haven at about 8:30 p.m. on a Friday evening to work with the rest of the team to meet the needs of a person, a defendant, who was in an acute phase of her illness,” she wrote.

“In another matter, it was Peter’s firm and caring support of a defendant in serious criminal trouble that helped the defendant to turn her life around and become a positive and productive member of our community — and regain her role as a loving, strong mother to her children,” the judge added.

Like everyone who knew him, Corsones said Neary’s death of an apparent heart problem came as a sudden and unexpected blow.

“It’s a surprise. It’s a shock,” Rutland County State’s Attorney Marc Brierre said. “He’s irreplaceable.”

Brierre was working as a deputy state’s attorney when Neary began working in the prosecutor’s office 25 years ago.

Over the years, Brierre said Neary, a Vermont Law School graduate, handled all manner of cases for the office until he progressed to handling some of the most difficult and violent cases, including domestic violence, assault and robbery cases.

Neary also served as co-counsel on some of the biggest murder trials in recent Rutland history, including the second-degree murder trial of Cynthia Baird in 2004 and the 2009 murder trial of Jonathan Bruno.

Neary and Brierre worked together on the Bruno case.

“He was a friend and a confidant for work and an invaluable associate,” Brierre said. “He was dedicated, aggressive and persistent. But he also believed that rehabilitation was possible and that every person could be rehabbed.”

James Mongeon, former Rutland County state’s attorney, said it was 25 years ago this week that he hired Neary. He described Neary as a dedicated prosecutor who “believed in the goodness in people.”

Deputy State’s Attorney Charles Romeo, who has served in the prosecutor’s office for just more than a year, said Neary helped him greatly at the start of his career.

“Peter was a tremendous mentor to me personally and professionally,” he said. “Even though I’ve only been here a year, he meant a lot.”

In addition to his roles in the prosecutor’s office and the church — where he was also a tenor in the choir — Neary served as town moderator during town meeting and was a founding member of Fair Haven Area Neighbors, which formed nine years ago to fight drugs and crime in the community.

“He has been an important part of our life here over the years,” FAN secretary Betty Barnouw said. “He was loyal, dedicated and full of ideas.”

A funeral Mass is scheduled on Friday at 1 p.m. at Our Lady of Seven Dolors.

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