Accused murderer of elderly woman back in court

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Chad Anthony Benfield was back in court Tuesday for yet another round of pretrial housekeeping since the state filed its notice to seek the death penalty. Benfield’s last court date was July 20, where his new set of attorneys and the district attorney’s office plowed through several pretrial motions before Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice.

Rice ruled on the questionnaires that contain questions filed by both Benfield’s attorneys and the state that would be asked of prospective jurors during the voir dire process of empaneling a jury of 12.

Benfield’s attorneys have also filed a motion to declare the Tennessee death penalty unconstitutional on its face, and the state has filed a response. Rice set the hearing for these motions for September 12.

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Benfield is charged in a dual indictment of felony murders stemming from the burglary and brutal rape of 89-year-old Mary Nolen in her Stoney Creek home in July 2017. Nolen was allegedly beaten during the incident, but did not immediately die, however, she was unable to name her attacker due to the severity of her injuries.

Carter County Sheriff’s Investigator Penny Garland said she identified Benfield as a suspect based on DNA evidence during the November 17 preliminary hearing held in the case.

When the grand jury got the case from sessions, they handed down an indictment charging Benfield with two counts of felony murder. This is because Tennessee law allows dual felony murder counts when felony crimes are committed that result in the death of a person.

Since Benfield committed aggravated burglary and rape against Mary Nolen, which resulted in her death, the grand jury charged him with two counts of felony murder in January 2018.

Benfield was initially charged with one count of first-degree murder and especially aggravated burglary.

The state filed a notice of intention to seek capital punishment on September 6, 2018, citing four aggravating circumstances: “that the murder was especially heinous and cruel…the murder was knowingly committed while the defendant was committing [a rape]…the victim of the murder was seventy years of age or older…the murder was committed at random.”

Rice has set the actual trial date for January 20, 2020.