- Courtesy Of Penny Thibault
- Left to right: Dennis, Jerry, Penny and Sean Thibault. The young men were Penny and Jerry's children.
Robert Robidoux, 38, pleaded guilty to two felony counts, including dispensing a drug with death resulting. That charge stems from the deaths of Sean and Dennis Thibault, who fatally overdosed on fentanyl in a Burlington apartment in June 2015.
At a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, the brothers' mother, Penny Thibault, said she hoped the conviction would send a message that people who deal drugs will be punished for “the devastation that they leave in their paths.”
“Sean and Dennis cannot have died in vain. We need for their deaths to make a difference in this crisis,” she said in a prepared statement that she shared with Seven Days. “We need to do what we can to prevent even a single family from experiencing this unimaginable, tragic loss.”
Robidoux's attorney, Dan Maguire, declined to comment on the case. According to court documents, Robidoux said at his sentencing that he did not sell the Thibaults the drugs but rather pooled his money with theirs. He described the brothers as his friends, apologized for their deaths and said he missed them.
The sentencing ends a seven-year crusade for Penny Thibault, whose efforts to hold Robidoux accountable for her sons' deaths was the subject of a Seven Days cover story in 2016.
A federal judge sentenced Robidoux to three years in prison in late 2016 after he pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to distribute heroin. But the charge was unrelated to the Thibaults' deaths, prompting the family to air their grievances publicly. Another 14 months passed before Robidoux was arrested and charged with providing the drugs that killed the brothers.
The overdose epidemic has only intensified since the Thibault brothers died. Last year, 210 people succumbed to accidental drug overdoses in Vermont — the most since the state started tracking the figure — and all but 14 had fentanyl in their systems.
Charges against dealers connected to fatal overdoses are still somewhat rare, though. The cases can be difficult to prove, and some prosecutors have philosophical qualms about seeking enhanced charges against low-level dealers who often are battling addiction themselves.
Robidoux could have faced more than 20 years in prison, but state prosecutors agreed to recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for his plea.
Penny Thibault told Seven Days on Thursday that she wanted Robidoux to receive a harsher prison sentence — at least seven years, since that is how long it has taken for him to admit to providing the drugs to her sons.
"You've taken seven years to own this," she said. "We want you to spend seven years thinking about Dennis and Sean in jail."
Still, the case's conclusion will bring her family some peace. A box containing her sons' ashes has sat on a chair in her bedroom for the last seven years. She vowed to keep them there until Robidoux was sent to prison. She and her husband now plan to scatter the ashes somewhere — likely in a place the brothers enjoyed as children.
"Closure is a word that implies an ending," she said. "This will never end for us. But this chapter is done now."