State prosecutors on Tuesday filed charges of capital murder, rape and criminal threat against a 22-year-old Cherryvale man suspected of killing a Parsons mother and her three children last week.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office said David Cornell Bennett Jr. faces the capital murder count and offered an alternative charge of four counts of first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger; Hollie Betts, 9; Jaxon Betts, 6; and Averie Betts, 4. The complaint, filed in Labette County District Court, accuses Bennett of killing the family sometime between Nov. 23 and 25 “in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner.”
Under Kansas state law, capital murder must be charged if prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty or ask for a sentence of life without parole. Bennett is also charged with raping Umbarger on or about Nov. 23 and threatening “to commit violence” against her on or around Sept. 18 and Oct. 30.
Beth Umbarger told The Eagle last week that her sister and Bennett had dated briefly a few months ago but that the 29-year-old single mother broke it off after her suitor “started acting pretty scary toward my sister.” The charging document says there is evidence that Umbarger’s killing “is a domestic violence offense.”
Never miss a local story.
Assistant Attorney General Amy Hanley, who represented the attorney general’s office at Bennett’s hearing Tuesday in Parsons, said by phone that she could not comment on the charges. Authorities have not released details of the killings, including how the family died.
Bennett is set to appear in Labette County Court at 2 p.m. Wednesday. He remains in the Oswego jail in lieu of $5 million bond.
Authorities arrested Bennett at gunpoint in Independence on Nov. 26, a day after the bodies of Umbarger and her children were found in their Parsons home. Co-workers of Umbarger, a licensed practical nurse, alerted police after she did not show up for work Nov. 25.
Her children were students at Lincoln and Guthridge elementary schools in Parsons, which is approximately 125 miles southeast of Wichita.