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Suspect in Parsons deaths held on $5 million bond;

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, at 3 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, at 4:38 p.m.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Cami Umbarger’s job title. She is a licensed practical nurse.

An Independence police officer found the 22-year-old man wanted in the deaths of a Parsons woman and her three young children walking along a street in the town, a few blocks from the hospital.

David Cornell Bennett Jr. was talking on a cellphone when the officer spotted him shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday near 15th Street and Laurel, Independence Police Chief Harry E. Smith said.

Within moments, Bennett was taken into custody at gunpoint.

“His clothes were frozen. He was borderline hypothermic,” Smith said Wednesday, recalling what he learned of Bennett’s condition upon his arrest.

“We took him into custody, took him to a hospital for evaluation,” then transported him to jail after his release.

“He was very compliant, cooperated with everything that the officer told him to do, (and) made no statements.”

Smith disclosed the details of the homicide suspect’s capture in Independence, a town roughly 30 miles from the house where the bodies of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her three children – Hollie, Jaxon and Averie – were discovered Monday after concerned co-workers called police when she didn’t show up for work. Authorities have not said how the four died or released details of Umbarger’s relationship, if any, with Bennett.

Smith said Wednesday he understood their involvement to be “a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.”

Cami’s sister, Beth Umbarger, told The Eagle on Tuesday that the pair “had went out a few times” a few months ago. But the 29-year-old single mother apparently “broke it off,” Beth Umbarger said, after Bennett allegedly stalked her, sent her threatening text messages and “started acting pretty scary toward my sister.”

Smith said a phoned-in tip led his officer to Bennett, who had been the subject of a multi-agency manhunt since the bodies were found. The caller, Smith said, indicated that Bennett was talking to an acquaintance and gave a general location of where he could be found.

“That information got to us ... in a timely manner,” Smith said, “and he was where (the caller) said he was.”

Smith said police think Bennett spent at least part of the day hiding in fields and in a wooded area west of Independence. Late Monday law enforcement found a black truck thought to belong to Bennett abandoned on Eighth Street, the chief said. Then police learned he was registered at a nearby hotel.

The next break came about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday when Bennett was seen at the Dollar General store on the west side of town. That led law enforcement to cordon off and blanket the area, Smith said.

About 8 1/2 hours later, the tipster disclosed Bennett was walking in the area of 15th Street.

Smith said authorities used dogs and a helicopter to aid in Bennett’s capture. More than 100 law enforcement officers also were involved, he added.

“We were able to put the pressure on and bring him out of hiding,” Smith said.

“It was amazing the amount of support we had in finding him.”

On Wednesday, Bennett, a Cherryvale resident, was being held on $5 million bond in connection with the killings. Labette District Judge Robert Fleming has signed an order that gives prosecutors until Dec. 10 to file charges against him, according to the Associated Press.

It was unknown whether the man had an attorney. The Labette County Jail declined to make him available to an AP reporter for comment.

Smith told The Eagle on Wednesday that Bennett had formerly been employed by an Independence roofing company. Asked whether Bennett has a prior criminal record, Smith said he knew only of some local traffic charges.

Cami Umbarger was a licensed practical nurse at two local nursing homes, family and a co-worker have said. Her children – 9-year-old Hollie, 6-year-old Jaxon and Averie, age 4 – were students at Lincoln and Guthridge elementary schools in Parsons.

Their funerals are set for 2 p.m. Monday at Thayer Christian Church, 8495 Dorn Road in Thayer. Visitation is from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, 405 Main St. in Parsons.

Parsons, a town of about 10,300 people, is about 125 miles southeast of Wichita.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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