Princeton, WV – A jury reached a guilty verdict in 30 minutes for a father who claimed he had sex with his three-year-old daughter by accident.
Henry Vincent Bennett, 26, was arrested in February after his daughter told family members, and later child protective service investigators, that she had been sexually abused, the Daily Mail reported.
Cindy Lambert, a child advocate with the organization Second Chances, said that the little girl reportedly made a penis out of Play-Doh and called it her daddy’s “butt.”
The three year old said her daddy had put his “butt on her butt,” Lambert testified in court.
Police brought Bennett in for questioning, and he initially denied the accusations.
But then he told police that his wife was away in the bathroom on two occasions when their three year old climbed into their bed, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Bennett told detectives that the two incidents – one which involved a sex toy and another that was oral sex – happened by accident.
On the first occasion, Bennett told police he had “accidentally” placed a sex toy in the toddler’s buttocks, the Daily Mail reported.
He said the second time, he wife had been performing oral sex on him and then got up and went to the bathroom.
Bennett claimed his three-year-old daughter came into the room and began performing oral sex on him before he realized she was not his wife.
Both Bennett and his wife, 24-year-old April Bennett, were arrested.
Initially, April was charged as an accessory, but she eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of child neglect creating a risk of serious bodily harm or death, the Daily Mail reported.
She was released on bail and is scheduled to be sentenced later in December. April faces one to five years in prison.
Prosecutor George Sitler asked Bennett in court how he could have mistaken his three-year-old daughter for his 185 lb. wife, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported.
“I was laying on my back,” Bennett said. “I thought it was April, and when I rolled over (child) yelled.”
The courtroom was stunned by the defendant’s confession on the stand, the Daily Mail Reported.
“It's a TV moment. It's a thing that happens on crime shows like Perry Mason,” Sitler told WVVA. “You wait your whole career to get somebody to actually confess to what they're accused of on the stand, and this is the first time I've ever seen it happen.”
Bennett’s attorney, Earl Hager, argued that Bennett’s confessions had been coerced, and claimed his client had the mental capacity of a child.
The defendant testified that he had been a special education student who had dropped out of school in ninth grade. Bennett said he had tried to pass the GED exam twice and failed both times, the Daily Mail reported.
At trial, the prosecutors played videos of Bennett’s confessions for the jury, and then Bennett opted to take the stand in his own defense.
Bennett told the court that the police had told him he could just go home if he confessed, but the extensive recordings of the detectives’ interviews with Bennett reflected nothing like that, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported.
He said that he’d made up the story for the detectives because he was scared and wanted to go home.
“Basically, what you have here is a false confession,” Hager told the jury. He claimed Bennett “didn’t even know what an attorney is.”
“Henry Bennett is a child living in an adult’s body, so he made up a lie so he could go home,” he said.
But the jury didn’t agree. They began deliberations at 11:35 a.m. and announced they had a verdict before noon, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Bennett was convicted of first-degree sexual assault, sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, and incest involving a three-year-old child.
He is being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver while he awaits sentencing on March 26.
Bennett could face 80 to 270 years in prison if his sentences run consecutively, the Daily Mail reported.