Arlington man found guilty of capital murder in triple homicide

Posted Friday, Apr. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- After three days of testimony, a jury found an Arlington man guilty of capital murder today for a triple slaying that left eight children motherless.

Dalton James Bennett Jr., 47, received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole in state District Judge Scott Wisch's court.

Prosecutors Sean Colston and Rhett Parham presented evidence that Sheryl Bennett, who was slain along with her new boyfriend, Jose Reyes, and her sister-in-law, Tana Todd, were drinking alcoholic beverages after a night at Rusty's Billiards in Arlington on June 18, 2011.

Tana Todd's husband, Johnny Todd, was wounded in the neck during the slayings at the Rolling Meadows apartment complex in the 3500 block of Wakefield Circle in Arlington, where Sheryl Bennett and her five children lived and where the Todds lived with their three children.

The Bennetts were living apart from one another, but nearby. Dalton Bennett was arrested at his mother's house in the 1100 block of Georgetown Street with self-inflicted neck and wrist wounds following the shootings.

Dalton Bennett left a note saying that he could not handle the pain anymore, Parham told the jury. In the note, Dalton Bennett apologized and wrote that he realized he had done something stupid, Parham said.

Just prior to shooting his estranged wife, Dalton Bennett said: "Here's your divorce," prosecutors told the jury during closing arguments on Friday.

Steve Gordon, who represented Dalton Bennett, along with William Ray, told the jury that his client was guilty of murder, but not capital murder. A guilty verdict on the murder charge would have carried a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison but Dalton Bennett could have become eligible for parole.

Gordon said there was no evidence of intent to murder the other individuals.

"Come to a decision that is based on law and the evidence," Gordon said during his closing arguments.

Colston countered that the state did not have to prove intent or premeditation to prove its capital murder case.

"Because your heart is broken does not give you a right to a .45-caliber divorce," Colston said.

A pre-teen who saw his mother, his aunt and his mother's boyfriend after they were shot to death remembered the details of the crime scene all too clearly, according to his testimony on Thursday.

The child testified that he was playing video games when he heard shots ring out. The child told the jury he did not see Dalton Bennett walk into the room where his mother, Tana and Johnny Todd, and Reyes were drinking.

But he said he did see the door open, close shut and that he watched as Dalton Bennett left the room, holding a gun in his hand.

The pre-teen described what he saw in the back bedroom after the shootings occurred. He said that blood was pouring from his mother's neck and hand, from Reyes' head, and that Tana Todd was slumped over in a kneeling position while Johnny Todd grasped a bleeding neck wound.

"I saw his gun," the pre-teen said, referring to Dalton Bennett. "It was like close to his head in his hand."

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