Article published Aug 9, 2015
A client mourns Lara Sobel
By Eric Blaisdell
BARRE — A mother who was with Lara Sobel hours before she was gunned down behind City Place in Barre said the Department for Children and Families worker was very kind to her and the state is worse off with her passing.
Police say Jody Herring shot Lara Sobel twice using a high-powered hunting rifle Shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. The South Barre woman is in custody and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Barre criminal court for Sobel’s killing.
Police meanwhile are also investigating the deaths of three of Herring’s family members, all of them killed in Berlin.
According to police, Herring has been involved in multiple cases with DCF and the shooting of Sobel appears to be connected to a July 10 hearing at which Herring lost custody of her 9-year-old child.
Sobel was a wife and mother of two children, and had been with DCF for at least 14 years.
Earlier Friday, Sobel met with another client, a mother, in Berlin as part of her job. That woman asked not to be identified, given the nature of her interaction with Sobel and the undue attention it could put on her family.
The woman said she recently had a relapse in her battle with heroin addiction and DCF was notified because her son was at her home at the time of the relapse. While she was very afraid her son could be taken away from her, the woman said Sobel quickly put her mind at ease.
The woman said she talked with Sobel on the phone a few days before they met, and Sobel told her DCF recognized that relapse is a part of recovery. She said Sobel assured her that the department doesn’t just come in and take someone’s child away unless the child’s life is in danger.
“When (Sobel) said relapse is part of recovery I almost hit the floor,” the mother said. “That’s totally not what I expected would come out of someone who worked for DCF’s mouth. But it did.”
The woman acknowledged that some people in the state have a very poor view of DCF and accuse the department of taking children away from families without just cause.
In her view, however, that reputation is often based on stories heard secondhand and not on direct experience with DCF workers.
The woman said her interactions with DCF, and with Sobel in particular, paint a different picture and showed her what the department is really about.
“(Sobel) said ‘We’re not here to make your life hard. We’re here to help you,’” the woman recalled. “… She just was so kind and amazingly supportive. It really put a whole different spin on my thoughts towards DCF. … A lot of people hate them.”
The woman used the words “kind,” “amazing” and “understanding” several times when describing Sobel, holding back tears for most of the interview Saturday.
“The last thing that she said to me was, ‘I have a lot of respect for you. You are a very brave woman,’” the mother said. “That is something I never would have expected to hear from what you hear of (DCF) workers. She was just so kind and so caring that it really hit me hard when I heard today it was her that was shot last night. It makes me very angry.”
She added, “I can’t even express to you how much I feel like (Sobel’s death) is a huge loss to our society, to our community in general. … She looked at me as an equal, not someone who was just another junkie.”