Man arrested in July beating death of Carter County Woman


CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - A Carter County man has been arrested in the beating death case of an elderly woman.

According to Sheriff Dexter Lunceford, Chad Benfield is charged with felony murder and especially aggravated burglary.

According to the sheriff, Mary Nolen's daughter and granddaughter found her inside her home on July 14, 2017. Nolen's face and neck area were bruised.

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While being transported to the Johnson City Medical Center, members of the Carter County Rescue Squad asked Mrs. Nolen if she had been assaulted, to which she confirmed that she had by nodding her head.

A Carter County Deputy spoke with Nolen at the hospital. The sheriff said she was unable to speak, but did confirm she had been assaulted. An investigation into the incident was initiated by Carter County Investigators.

While hospitalized at the Johnson City Medical Center, evidence was collected from Ms. Nolen's person in an attempt to identify her assailant. This included fingernail clippings from her hands which were sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Crime Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee.

CCSO investigators met with family members at Nolen's residence to do a walk through in order to determine if any items were missing from the residence. During the walk through, a family member noted that a bottle of Tramadol, a green lock box, and sheets from the bed were missing.

The daughter also said Nolen's pocketbook was missing from its usual place. It was found in another area of the home where family said it was never noted to be before.

On July 26, Mary Nolen died at the Johnson City Medical Center Hospital, having never fully regained consciousness.

An autopsy was conducted at the William H. Jenkins Forensics Center in Johnson City.

During the autopsy, indications of blunt force trauma were discovered. Additionally, bruising was still evident and present on the tops of both of Mrs. Nolen's forearms along with contusions on the face, scalp, chin, and neck area.

On August 8, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Crime Laboratory issued a report which stated that a DNA profile of an unknown male subject had been discovered to be present on both the left and right hand fingernail clippings of Mary Nolen.

Based upon the discovery of this DNA profile, a search was conducted through the Combined DNA Index System and an association was made. This association identified Chad Anthony Benfield as being the contributor of the DNA profile discovered under the fingernails on both the left and right hand fingernail clippings of Mary Nolen.

The sheriff said the search for Benfield revealed he lived on Highway 91. That residence is directly behind Nolen's home.

Benfield was recently released from a South Carolina Prison in December 2016 after serving an approximate sixteen year prison sentence for four counts of Residential Burglary. Upon his release, Benfield remained on probation out of South Carolina with supervision status in Tennessee until his arrest earlier this week on a Violation of Probation warrant.

On August 10th Carter County Investigators traveled to Gaffney, South Carolina where they interviewed the former girlfriend/fiance of Chad Benfield. She said she and Benfield lived together at the residence from the time of Benfield's release from prison until Friday, July 14th.

The sheriff said she told investigators that on July 13, she and Benfield argued up until the time that she went to bed at approximately 1:00 a.m. She said she was unaware of Benfield's whereabouts until approximately 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

Later that day, she made the decision to terminate her relationship with Benfield. While packing up to leave the residence, she told investigators she found a set of sheets wadded up beneath a pile of laundry that was on a futon in the basement of the residence at 672 Highway 91. She stated to investigators that she did not recognize the sheets and advised that all of the beds in her residence were either King or Queen sized, and that these sheets were smaller. It is noted that Mary Nolen's bed from which the bedsheets were missing was a full size. Upon picking up the sheets, she stated that a night gown and bath robe were present as well.

Investigators interviewed Mr. Benfield on August 11, at which time he denied ever having contact with Mrs. Nolen or being in Mrs. Nolen's residence.

Based upon the forensic evidence and collective investigative efforts, Chad Benfield was charged with Felony Murder and Especially Aggravated Burglary - bond was set at $500,000. The previous bond on the Fugitive from Justice Warrant for the Violation of Probation out of South Carolina was set at $25,000.

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