Benfield first-degree murder trial begins

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

Testimony began Tuesday in the first-degree murder trial of a man accused of killing Mary Nolen during a home invasion.

Chad Anthony Benfield was charged with breaking into 89-year-old Nolen’s home in July 2017 and assaulting her, resulting in injuries that led to her death almost two weeks later.

The trial was originally scheduled for July 2020, but was delayed until this week.

Benfield pleaded not guilty to both counts one involving first-degree murder in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate rape and count two involving first-degree murder in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate aggravated burglary.

“As I said during the jury questioning, this trial is not only Chad Benfield’s trial, but it is also about Mary Nolen and her last few days on this earth,” prosecutor Matthew Roark told the jury in his opening remarks, sharing the victim’s background.

Roark also brought up what the jury can expect to hear from the state’s prosecution, including testimonies from family members and first responders involved as well as DNA results and evidence found in the period after Nolen’s death.

The defense began to refute the prosecution’s claims in opening statements, giving the jury insight into Nolen’s previous medical conditions as well as what should be considered when making a decision in the case.

“Any time someone passes away it is a tragedy, but to convict someone for something that they did not do and that the state can not prove beyond a reasonable doubt is a tragedy in its own right,” said defense attorney Chris Byrd. “Reasonable doubt is uncertainty fairly raised by logic or the evidence, and the state needs to remove any reasonable doubt you may have to find Mr. Benfield guilty.”

Several of Nolen’s family members took the stand Tuesday, including her two granddaughters and daughter, who testified to finding Nolen in her home on July 14, 2017, covered in bruises and unable to verbally communicate.

“She had had cataract surgery that Monday and was complaining that she was unable to sweep or mop, so I had went to her house to help her clean that Friday morning,” said Nolen’s granddaughter,Melanie Harold. “I knocked on the door and there was no answer, so I thought she may be in the bathroom or in bed.

“I had thought she had went to Wayne and Nancy’s for breakfast, so I called my mother and asked her for a key. As I had been walking around the house, I reached for the storm door and realized that it was locked, so I knew that she was in the house because you can only lock that door from the inside.”

The prosecution also called upon first responders EMT Johnathan Hatley and Sergeant David Tranbarger with the Carter County Sheriff’s office, who responded to the scene, and Tessa Proffitt, a sexual assault nurse examiner with the State of Tennessee.

The trial is still underway and will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.