PARSONS — Prosecutors have asked for more time to file charges against a 22-year-old man suspected in a quadruple homicide in Parsons, citing closed courts over the Thanksgiving holiday and the complicated nature of the case as reasons for the delay.
By Amy Renee Leiker
The Wichita Eagle
David Cornell Bennett Jr. appeared via video feed on Monday at the Labette County courthouse’s Parsons location for the first of what’s likely to be several hearings as details of the slayings of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her three children – Hollie, 9; Jaxon, 6; and Averie, 4 – unfold. Handcuffed and dressed in a sleeveless green jumpsuit, Bennett seemed confused at times when told of the reasons for the day’s hearing and the accusations against him.
The court has given prosecutors until Dec. 10 to file formal charges, but they could come later this week if prosecutors are prepared, Labette County District Judge Robert J. Fleming said Monday. Addressing Bennett, the judge explained that additional time was granted, in part, because the courts were closed late last week for the holiday.
He added that “because of the complicated nature of the case, I’ve allowed the state additional time to file charges against you.”
Bennett, of Cherryvale, was arrested at gunpoint on Nov. 26 in Independence, a day after the bodies of Umbarger and her children were discovered in the family’s Parsons home. Co-workers concerned for her welfare alerted police on Nov. 25 that Umbarger, a licensed practical nurse, hadn’t shown up for work that day.
Independence police Chief Harry E. Smith told The Eagle last week that a frozen and “borderline hypothermic” Bennett was found walking and talking on a cellphone a few blocks from the town’s hospital – his truck abandoned – after authorities received a tip concerning his whereabouts.
Bennett remains in the Oswego jail in lieu of $5 million bond on suspicion of four counts of first-degree murder. He is expected to appear next in person at Labette County District Court’s location in Oswego and has requested court-appointed counsel.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office has taken over prosecution of the case. Assistant Attorney General Amy Hanley, who represented the office, said after Monday’s hearing that she could not comment on the case.
During Monday’s proceedings, Bennett tried to speak freely several times – mentioning both his arrest and incarceration – but was advised by the judge to avoid discussing “the substance of the case.”
“This isn’t the time for that,” Fleming said.
Asked by the judge whether he had any questions about the proceedings, Bennett replied: “So I have a chance to present my case and so forth and have a fair chance like everyone else?”
“Sure,” Fleming said, adding that he first wanted to “make sure you understand what you are charged with.”
Yellow crime scene tape still cordoned off the house at 415 N. 25th St. as family and friends prepared to bury the slain family Monday. Reminders of children’s play – a football, a toy baby stroller, a bicycle – lay undisturbed in the yard. A Parsons police car sat across the street; a second law enforcement vehicle was parked in the driveway.
Parsons, which has about 10,300 residents, is about 125 miles east of Wichita.