Man charged with murder in death of 89-year-old woman

Published 10:42 pm Friday, August 11, 2017

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford announced on Friday night that an Elizabethton man has been arrested in connection with the July death of 89-year-old Mary Nolen.

Investigators with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office arrested Chad Anthony Benfield, 37, of Elizabethton, on Friday and charged him with felony first degree murder and especially aggravated burglary. His bond was set at $500,000.

On Friday, July 14, Mary Nolen was found injured inside her residence at 128 Dan Bowers Road, in the Stoney Creek community, by her daughter and granddaughter. Nolen had visible injuries and was taken to the Johnson City Medical Center by the Carter County Rescue Squad.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“After being transported to the Johnson City Medical Center, a Carter County Deputy responded and spoke with Mrs. Nolen,” Lunceford said. “Although unable to speak, when asked by the Deputy if she had been assaulted, Mrs. Nolen nodded in an affirmative manner that she had been. Subsequently, an investigation into the incident was initiated by Carter County Investigators.”

While hospitalized at the Johnson City Medical Center, evidence was collected from Ms. Nolen’s person in an attempt to identify her assailant. This included fingernail clippings from her hands which were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Crime Laboratory in Knoxville.

Investigators met with family members at Nolen’s residence to do a walk through in order to determine if any items were missing from the residence. During the walk through, a family member noted that a bottle of Tramadol, a green lock box, and sheets from Nolen’s bed were missing from inside of the residence. Additionally, the daughter stated that at the time of Nolen’s discovery on July 14th, her pocketbook was missing from its usual location, which family members stated was extremely abnormal. The purse was found in another area of the home where it was never noted to be previously.

Nolen died at the Johnson City Medical Center on July 26, having never regained consciousness and being in a state of progressively deteriorating health since being found injured on July 14, Lunceford said. An autopsy revealed subdural hematomas of the skull and brain, which indicated blunt force trauma and are consistent with injuries sustained in a physical assault, according to Lunceford.

On August 8, 2017, the TBI Crime Lab issued a report stating that a DNA profile of an unknown male subject had been discovered on both the left and right hand fingernail clippings taken from Nolen.

“Based upon the discovery of this DNA profile, a search was conducted through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and an association was made,” Lunceford said. “This association identified Chad Anthony Benfield as being the contributor of the DNA profile discovered under the fingernails on both the left and right hand fingernail clippings of Mary Nolen.”

A search for Benfield revealed that he had been residing at 672 Highway 91, which is directly behind Mary Nolen’s home at 128 Dan Bowers Road, according to Lunceford.

“Benfield was recently released from a South Carolina Prison in December of 2016 after serving an approximate sixteen year prison sentence for four counts of Residential Burglary,” Lunceford said. “Upon his release, Benfield remained on probation out of South Carolina with supervision status in Tennessee until his arrest earlier this week on a Violation of Probation warrant.”

Lunceford said investigators traveled to Gaffney, S.C., and interviewed the former girlfriend of Benfield, who told officers she and Benfield had lived at the residence at 672 Highway 91 from the time of his release from prison until Friday, July 14.

The woman told investigators she and Benfield had argued on the night of July 13 and she went to bed around 1 a.m. on July 14 and she was unaware of his whereabouts until around 8 a.m.

“Later that day, she made the decision to terminate her relationship with Benfield. While packing up to leave the residence she discovered a set of sheets which were wadded up beneath a pile of laundry that was on a futon in the basement of the residence at 672 Highway 91,” Lunceford said. “She stated to investigators that she did not recognize the sheets and advised that all of the beds in her residence were either King or Queen sized, and that these sheets were smaller. It is noted that Mary Nolen’s bed from which the bedsheets were missing was a full size. Upon picking up the sheets, she stated that a night gown and bath robe were present as well.”

Lunceford said investigators interviewed Benfield on Friday and he denied ever having contact with Nolen or being inside her home.