On Wednesday, April 5, Dagsboro resident Matthew Burton admitted to having committed the rape and murder of Nicole Bennett nearly five years ago.
As reported by the Cape Gazette newspaper, Delaware Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley asked Burton if he raped and murdered Bennett.
“Yes,” replied Burton.
Burton, who was 28 at the time of the murder, is now 33. Last week, he pled guilty to second-degree murder, being sentenced to 40 years, suspended after 15 years, and second-degree rape, for which he was sentenced to 25 years, also suspended after 15.
As a result, Burton will serve a total of 30 years in a Level 5 prison facility, with credit for time served, after which he will serve 20 years on probation.
The trial, which was expected to begin in June, had experienced numerous delays and two extradition trials, as Bennett’s body was found in Maryland, just over the Delaware border, and he was initially held in Maryland, where he fought extradition to Delaware.
Burton was indicted in Delaware in 2012 and charged with first- and second-degree murder, as well as first- and second-degree rape, third- and fourth-degree sex offense, kidnapping and first-degree assault.
During the 2012 hearing, it was disclosed that “certain items were found of a peculiar nature — a ski mask, rope, gloves” in Burton’s car, along with Burton’s DNA having been found on Bennett.
Bennett, who worked at Bay Shore Babies and SPLASH at Bay Shore Community Church in Gumboro, Del., went into work on the evening of June 15, 2012, and was reported missing the following morning by her husband, when he realized she had not returned home.
Her body was later discovered on Swamp Road near Whaleyville in Worchester County, Md., on an embankment that slopes down from the roadway. An autopsy found that Bennett had been murdered and that the cause of her death was asphyxiation.
Burton, who was a Tier 1 “low-risk” sex offender at the time of Bennett’s murder, had allegedly not disclosed his offender status to Bay Shore Community Church at the time of his hiring there as a contract custodial employee. Following church officials’ discovery of sex-offender status, his employment at the church was to be terminated, to be effective June 16, the day after Bennett’s murder.
Bennett is survived by her husband, Kevin, and their three daughters, now 16, 13 and 6.