Carter Co. murder: Sheriff says investigators interviewed suspect’s ex girlfriend, about 20 others

(Source: Carter County Sheriff's Office)

CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – New details have been released by the sheriff’s office in the murder of an elderly Carter County woman. Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford spoke on the case Monday afternoon.

We now know that investigators traveled to South Carolina to talk to the former girlfriend of the suspect.

A month ago, the Carter County Sheriff’s Office told us 89-year-old Mary Nolen was found assaulted in her Stoney Creek home on July 14. She was found at her home on Dan Bowers Road by her daughter and granddaughter.

Authorities said she had significant bruising on her chin and neck area. While in transport to the hospital in Johnson City, she confirmed to the Carter County Rescue Squad that she had been assaulted by nodding her head.

During the course of the investigation and while hospitalized, evidence was collected from Nolen to helped identify the suspect — including fingernail clippings, which were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in Knoxville for processing

In addition, investigators met with family members at Nolen’s to see if any items were missing in the victim’s home. Family said that a bottle of Tramadol, a green lock box and sheets from the victim’s bed were missing.

Mary Nolen – Courtesy of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office


According to the sheriff, Nolen never fully regained consciouness and later died of her injuries on July 26.

An autopsy revealed injuries to Nolen’s skull and brain which investigators say indicated blunt force trauma. Also, investigators say bruising was still evident on Nolen’s forearms along with contusions on her face, scalp, chin and neck area.

Last week, investigators said finger nail clippings from the victim, that were tested by the TBI crime lab, matched the DNA profile of a man — leading them to Chad Benfield, of Gaffney. South Carolina. Benfield lived at a home on Highway 61 — directly behind Nolen’s Dan Bowers Road home.
Benfield was recently released from prison on probation in December of 2016 after serving 16 years for four counts of residential burglary.

Last Thursday, investigators traveled to Gaffney, SC to talk to Benfield’s ex-girlfriend. She told investigators she lived with Benfield from the time of his release from prison until July 14. She allegedly told investigators, the night before she and Benfield had argued up until the time she went to bed. She told investigators she did not see Benfield until the next morning. That day she decided to end the relationship and while packing she found a pile of wadded sheets under a pile of laundry. She told investigators she did not recognize the sheets. She said when she picked up the sheets, found a night gown and a bath robe.

Benfield was interviewed last Friday and deputies arrested and charged him with murder and especially aggravated burglary. He is being held on a $500,000 bond.

The sheriff revealed on Monday about 20 people were interviewed in the case.

Benfield is scheduled to have an arraignment hearing on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m.

News Channel 11 will continue to follow the latest developments in this case.  We’ll have a full report beginning on the news at 5:00 p.m.


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