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November 28, 2013

$5M bail for suspect in deaths of mom, children

PARSONS, Kan. — The man suspected in the deaths of a southeast Kansas woman and her three children and arrested after a massive manhunt was being held Wednesday on $5 million bail.

Labette District Judge Robert Fleming signed an order that gives prosecutors until Dec. 10 to file charges against David Cornell Bennett Jr., 22, of Cherryvale, who was arrested late Tuesday. It was unclear whether Bennett has an attorney. The Labette County Jail declined to make him available for comment.

Bennett is being held in connection to the killings of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her children.

Bennett, who has not been formally charged, was captured shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday in Independence while walking and talking on his cellphone to a friend who alerted authorities to his whereabouts, Independence Police Chief Harry Smith said Wednesday. It ended the search that began Monday when Umbarger, of Parsons, was first reported missing.

Their bodies were found late Monday night in Parsons, about 35 miles from Independence. Details about how the victims were killed or their relationship to Bennett have not been released by authorities.

However, Umbarger's cousin, Tara Umbarger, of Fredonia, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Cami Umbarger had met Bennett around the end of September and went out with him a couple of times.

She said he began calling her 30 or 40 times at a time, at times making threats.

"He was basically stalking her and wouldn't leave her alone," Tara Umbarger said. "She was trying to get away. He wasn't leaving her alone."

But Cami Umbarger never filed a complaint with police and was the type of person who probably thought he wasn't serious, her cousin said, adding Cami Umbarger probably just "blew it off."

Tara Umbarger described her slain cousin as a "very good mom" who loved her kids and worked hard for them.

"I don't want (people) to remember this bad thing," Tara Umbarger said of the killings. "It wasn't that she was a bad person — she just somehow ... got mixed up with him somehow."

More than 100 law enforcement officers, canine search teams and an aircraft from numerous agencies were involved in the search for the suspect, which quickly focused on Independence where he works at a roofing firm, Smith said.

Officers spotted Bennett walking along the street about a block from the local hospital and arrested him at gunpoint. His clothes were soaking wet and frozen when he was found in the frigid evening temperatures — a low of 18 degrees.

The Kansas attorney general's office has said it would prosecute any ensuing case.

Police learned Cami Umbarger was missing after co-workers called police Monday when she didn't show up for work, facility administrator Joanna Wilson told The Wichita Eagle. Umbarger was a licensed practical nurse who worked at the Good Samaritan Society, a nursing home in Parsons, a town of about 10,500 residents southeast of Wichita.

Parsons schools called in extra counselors to talk to students and staff about the deaths of the children, identified as 9-year-old Hollie Betts, 6-year-old Jaxon Betts and 4-year-old Averie Betts.

"Obviously everyone is deeply saddened and shocked by the news of the death of our students and their mother. In a town the size of Parsons, this affects everyone," district superintendent Shelly Martin said.

Funeral services are scheduled for Monday in Thayer for Umbarger and her children.

 

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