Less than a month after the body of 35-year old Millsboro resident Nicole Bennett was found along a dirt road in Maryland, police this week arrested 28-year-old Dagsboro resident Matthew Burton in connection with the crime.
Bennett, who worked at Bay Shore Babies and SPLASH in Gumboro, Del., went into work on the evening of June 15 and was reported missing the following morning by her husband, when he realized she had not returned home.
Bennett’s body was discovered just an hour later, on Swamp Road near Whaleyville in Worchester County, Md., on an embankment that slopes down from the roadway.
The body was later identified as Bennett’s, and an autopsy conducted found that Bennett had been murdered and the cause of her death was asphyxiation.
According to Maryland State Police Spokesperson Elena Russo, Bennett’s vehicle was found at the church, locked, with her personal belongings still inside. Russo said she could not speak as to whether the car had been disturbed during the crime.
Following the recovery of Bennett’s body, police found that Burton had been working a custodial shift in the church on the night of her disappearance.
Police obtained search warrants for both Bennett’s and Burton’s homes and were able to collect evidence.
“Evidence was recovered,” said Russo. “But the investigation is still ongoing. I can certainly tell you that DNA evidence was found at the scene… the dirt road.” She said the evidence links Burton to the crime.
Russo added that she did not know if any evidence suggested Burton and Bennett were friends or knew each other outside of church.
In a statement released on July 7, Bay Shore Community Church representatives said they were unaware that Burton, a registered Tier-1 “low-risk” sex offender in Delaware, had any criminal record. They said he had been working as an independent contractor and that his contract had been terminated, with his last date of employment to have been June 14, the day before Bennett was murdered.
On the evening of July 6, Burton was apprehended by the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force, a warrant apprehension team, while he was driving on Route 1 near Rehoboth Beach.
Burton has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, and was being held this week the Sussex Correctional Institution, while awaiting possible extradition to Maryland. Russo said the extradition hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6.
Russo said that the Maryland State Police have stopped looking for any other suspects in Bennett’s murder.
“At this time, they believe Burton acted alone in this incident,” she said.
Russo said the investigation is still ongoing, however, and the Maryland and Delaware state police continue to work together on the cross-border crime.
“We continue to work together on this investigation, kind of piecing the puzzle together. Obviously, he did have an involvement with the Delaware State Police, as well as the Maryland State Police. So, there’s a lot of information sharing.”
Bennett’s family could not be reached for comment before Coastal Point’s print deadline.
“We pray that justice will be done with respect to this tragic event,” Bay Shore Community Church said in their statement.
Bennett is survived by her husband, Kevin, and their three daughters, ages 11, 8 and 15 months. Donations to support the family can be made to the Nicole Reiser Memorial Fund, c/o WSFS Bank, 26644 Center View Dr., Millsboro, DE 19966.