Judge finds enough evidence to try man in deaths of mother, 3 children in southeast Kansas

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PITTSBURG, Kansas — A 23-year-old man was bound over for trial Wednesday in the strangulation deaths of a woman and her three children last year in southeast Kansas.

Labette County District Judge Robert Fleming found sufficient probable cause to try David Bennett Jr. after a preliminary hearing that lasted just under three hours. The hearing ended without the defense calling any witnesses, The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/1vQYn7U) reports.

Bennett, of Cherryvale, is charged with capital murder in the deaths of Cami Umbarger, 29, and her three children, Hollie Betts, 9, Jaxon Betts, 6, and Averie Betts, 4, in their home in the southeast Kansas town of Parsons. He also faces four counts of first-degree murder as an alternative to the capital murder charge, along with a single count of rape and three counts of criminal threat.

According to testimony, Bennett entered Umbarger's home and sexually assaulted her in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, 2013. Umbarger called a male friend to her home when Bennett fell asleep in her bed. The friend threw Bennett out of the bed and told him he needed to leave.

Umbarger later went to Wichita to attend the bridal shower of a sister without contacting police.

Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents and forensic specialists testified that the body of Umbarger and Hollie were found two days later under different beds in the same bedroom. Jaxon's body was found beneath clothes in a utility room in the back of the house. Averie's body was stuffed into a clothes dryer, buried under clothes.

Bennett was arrested in Independence after a manhunt. Witnesses said Bennett's DNA was found at the crime scene.

A cousin told The Associated Press last year that Umbarger met Bennett before the killings and went out with him a couple of times. The cousin also said that when Umbarger tried to break off the relationship, Bennett "wouldn't leave her alone."


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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