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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Church Knew Janitor Was a Rapist, Family Says

WILMINTON, Del. (CN) - A mother of three was raped and murdered by the custodian her church kept employed despite his known history of rape, her family claims in court.

Bay Shore Community Church and the Rev. Danny Tice had discovered in early June 2012 that their custodian, Matthew Burton, was on probation after having pleaded guilty in the face of multiple rape counts, according to the complaint filed in New Castle County Superior Court.

Though Burton was charged in 2004 with 22 felony counts related to the sexual abuse of a child, he pleaded guilty to two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and registered as a Tier One sex offender, media reports show.

Bay Shore, located in Millsboro, Del., allegedly fired Burton when it learned of his past but let him continue working there for an additional two weeks.

"On the last day of those additional two weeks Burton was left alone, at night with Nicole Bennett," the complaint states.

Bennett, the director of Bay Shore's child care, was allegedly working late that night, June 14, 2012, to complete a mailing.

"Nicole Bennett was murdered that night," the complaint states. "The police found her car still at Bay Shore. They found her body just over the state line in Maryland. It was determined that Nicole Bennett was dead when her body was dumped there. It was determined that she had been asphyxiated and sexually abused. Investigation revealed that she was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Burton."

Investigators allegedly found DNA evidence linking Burton to the crime. He is currently incarcerated in Maryland, where he was indicted on first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree rape, sexual offenses, kidnapping and assault in the death of Nicole Bennett.

Her family - a husband and three young daughters - say that Bay Shore never told other staff about Burton's record.

"At all relevant times, the defendants had actual knowledge of Burton's violent history and nevertheless failed to warn Nicole Bennett about his dangerous propensities while simultaneously allowing Nicole Bennett to be left alone with Burton while both were engaged in their duties at Bayshore," the complaint states.

Bennett's family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, negligent hiring, negligent retention and negligent supervision. They are represented by attorney Bartholomew Dalton.

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