Man who raped 3-year-old daughter after 'mistaking' her for his wife jailed for 50 years
Henry Vincent Bennett, 27, was sentenced to 25 to 100 years for two counts of first-degree sexual assault after he wilting under cross-examination during trial on March 26
A West Virginia man, who was convicted of incest with his three-year-old daughter after he claimed he only sexually assaulted her because he confused the child for his 24-year-old, 185-pound wife, will be spending the next half century behind bars.
According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Mercer Circuit County Judge Derek Swope denied the motion for a new trial and, after noting the problems the child could suffer later in life, sentenced 27-year-old Henry Vincent Bennett to 25 to 100 years for each of two counts of first-degree sexual assault on March 26.
Swope read a letter from the child's maternal grandparents, who are now her legal guardians, before delivering his verdict. Bennett's wife April was arrested and charged with being an accessory to the 27-year-old's crimes and is also scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty to a charge of child neglect.
Swope also sentenced Bennett to consecutive sentences amounting to 30 to 70 years for the two sexual abuse charges and two incest charges which the 27-year-old was also convicted of. He ruled that he would only become eligible for parole after serving at least 50 years of his sentence.
If Bennett is paroled, however, he would still face a further seven years of probation and lifetime sex offender extended supervision, with Swope announcing, "I’m not locking him up for the rest of his life, but for the rest of his effective life."
Bennett was first arrested in February 2018 after his daughter told family members and child safety workers that she had been sexually abused by her father. When he was brought in for questioning, Bennett initially denied the charges but later admitted to sexually assaulting his daughter two times — once with a sex toy, and once when he made her perform oral sex on him.
He insisted both occasions had been accidents, claiming the first incident had taken place when April was away in the bathroom and he placed the sex toy in the child's butt thinking it was his wife. He said the second incident happened when his wife was performing oral sex on him and went to the bathroom in the middle. He explained that this was when his daughter crawled into the bed and started performing oral sex on him without his knowledge.
However, Bennett recanted those confessions during his trial, claiming it had been coerced from him by the police on a promise of letting him go home. His lawyer argued his client had a diminished mental capacity — the 27-year-old stated he had been in special education, dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and failed to earn his GED twice — and was susceptible to such pressure tactics.
However, when he took the stand in his defense, there was a twist which could have been straight out of a legal drama on television. Wilting under cross-examination from prosecutor George Sitler, Bennett slipped up and repeated the confession he made to detectives. The jury, who were subsequently sent into deliberation, returned with a guilty verdict on all counts less than 30 minutes later.
April is yet to be sentenced and faces a jail term of one to five years.