Father accused of sexually abusing 3-year-old daughter twice says he mistook the child for his 185-pound wife
26-year-old Henry Vincent Bennett was convicted by the jury after less than 30 minutes of deliberation and now faces a 80 to 270-year sentence
A jury in West Virginia took less than 30 minutes to convict a man of incest with his three-year-old daughter after he took the stand and seemingly repeated a previous confession he had made to the police where he claimed he had only done so because he mistook the child for his 24-year-old, 185-pound wife.
According to the Daily Mail, 26-year-old Henry Vincent Bennett was convicted of two counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of incest after it was uncovered that he had sexually abused his three-year-old daughter on two separate occasions.
Bennett was first arrested in February after his daughter told family members and child safety workers that she had been sexually abused by her father. The 26-year-old was then brought in for questioning, where after initially denying the allegations, he confessed to sexually assaulting the child two times — once with a sex toy and once when he made her perform oral sex on him.
However, he argued that both occasions had been accidents and had happened after the three-year-old crawled into his bed while his wife, April Bennett, was away in the bathroom. He claimed he had "accidentally" placed the sex toy in the child's butt the first time. The second time, he said, happened when his wife had been performing oral sex on him. He said she went to the bathroom in the middle and that his daughter crawled into the bed and started performing oral sex on him before he realized it was not his wife.
Both Bennett and his wife were then arrested, with April charged with being an accessory to her husband's crimes. She later accepted a plea deal that would see her agreeing to plead guilty to a charge of child neglect, which carries a significantly lighter sentence.
There was a twist during his trial after he recanted his confession and claimed it had been coerced by the police on a promise of letting him go home. His lawyer similarly argued that his client's diminished mental capacity — Bennett stated he had been in special education, dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and failed to earn his GED twice — had made him susceptible to the authorities' pressure tactics.
The Mail reported that the 26-year-old took to the stand in his own defense and repeated the assertion that his previous confession was false and that he was scared when he admitted to the sexual abuse, though he would eventually wilt under cross-examination by prosecutor George Sitler.
Sitler pointed to a table in the courtroom that had sex toys on it to remind Bennett that he had even told police exactly which toy he had used on the three-year-old, asking him how he could possibly confuse a small child for his wife. It was here that the 26-year-old slipped up, saying, "I was laying on my back... I thought it was April, and when I rolled over (the girl) yelled."
He had once again repeated his previous confession and the jury was soon sent into deliberation. They returned no more than 30 minutes later, finding him guilty on all his charges. He was ordered back into custody at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 26. He faces the possibility of a 80 to 270-year sentence.
April Bennett is currently free on bail and faces a sentence of between one to five years in prison.