BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — UPDATE: July 16, 2020 12:30 p.m.: A sentencing hearing was held in Raleigh County for Ariel Bennett on Thursday morning. She was convicted of Child Neglect Resulting in Death back in February.
According to the Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Bennett was sentenced to serve five to 25 years in prison. She will also have to pay an $11,000 fine.
After she is released she will have 50 years of intense supervision. She must also register on the child abuse registry for 10 years.
UPDATE: Feb. 28, 2020 10:15 a.m.: A jury found Ariel Bennett guilty.
Bennett is guilty on one count of child neglect resulting in death, and two counts of child neglect posing substantial risk of injury or death.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 16, 2020. She could face 5-25 years in prison.
UPDATE: Feb. 27, 2020 8:00 p.m BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Day three of Ariel Bennett’s trial was just as intense as the first two.
Kristen Keller, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney, started the day with evidence against Andrew Bennett, Ariel’s husband. He was a witness called by the defense on day two of the trial. Keller showed videos of his interview with a detective on the case, which proved his testimony was not completely truthful.
After jury instructions, the two attorneys presented their closing arguments. Keller gave a full summary of evidence, commenting on Ariel’s drinking habits, her demeanor after her baby was killed, and more.
Sarah Smith, the defense attorney, said most of Ariel’s actions were not a crime. She also went on to say Ariel was demonized and degraded throughout the trial.
The jury decided to return Friday for deliberation and to give a verdict. If convicted, Ariel is facing five to 25 years in prison.
UPDATE: Feb. 26, 2020 8:30 p.m BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Day two of Ariel Bennett’s trial was filled with testimonies from multiple witnesses.
Kristen Keller, the Prosecuting Attorney, called three doctors to the stand: an emergency room physician, a medical examiner, and a pediatrician. She asked them about their expert opinions on the alcoholic state of Bennett, the cause of death of Gracelynn Bennett, and the living conditions of the family.
Sarah Smith, the Defense Attorney, cross examined the doctors and asked about the state of mind Bennett could have been in, having consumed so much alcohol.
The state then rested its case and the defense team called Andrew Bennett to the stand, the defendant’s husband. He is also charged in this case. Smith asked him about his knowledge of the alleged neglect and of his wife’s alcoholism.
Keller took the opportunity to cross examine Andrew and ask about his opinion of the responsibility of Ariel. She asked him about his interrogations where he repeatedly said “he does not recall.”
The trial will continue and the defense will call more witnesses.
BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — On November 7, 2015, dispatchers received a call that a five-month-old baby girl was unconscious. That baby was Gracelynn Bennett and she would later be pronounced dead.
Ariel Bennett is standing trial for her daughter’s death, more than four years later. She allegedly rolled over her daughter and suffocated her, in what Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller called ‘a drunken stupor.’
“When her drunken mother laid on top of Gracelynn in such a manner, and for such a length of time, that baby Gracelynn couldn’t breathe,” Keller described.
Bennett was charged with child neglect resulting in death, among other charges. Keller argued Bennett did not do what was expected of her as a parent.
“Unreasonably failed to exercise even the minimum degree of care to assure baby Gracelynn’s health and safety,” Keller said.
Defense attorney, Sarah Smith, argued Bennett is a victim of addiction.
“We all know that addiction and substance abuse have our state in a strangle hold. These effects reach out, they reach far like tentacles through everything,” Smith said.
As part of the evidence presentation, Keller showed the jury pictures of the living conditions of the Bennett family.
“A residential landfill,” Keller said.
The trial will continue Wednesday with more witnesses.