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Stephanie Bennett Civil Case Goes to Trial

Posted January 2, 2007

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— The father of a murdered woman will finally have his day in court, although the case will be in a civil court instead of a criminal one.

Stephanie Bennett was raped and killed in her north Raleigh apartment in May 2002. Drew Planten, the man charged with the crime after a three-year investigation, committed suicide in prison a year ago while awaiting trial.

Planten's death robbed the Bennett family of a chance to achieve sense of justice through the criminal courts. Her father said he hopes to obtain that justice through a civil suit against the apartment complex where she lived and was killed.

"I think she'd be proud of the fact that I'm trying to get something good out of something very bad, Carmon Bennett said.

Carmon Bennett maintains in the lawsuit that Bridgeport Apartments failed to protect his daughter from her killer. He alleges that his daughter's window failed to lock, that shrubbery around the building was too high and that there was inadequate lighting.

A prowler later identified as Planten had been seen near the apartment prior to her murder, and Bennett's attorneys said the apartment complex was aware of that fact.

"We see this as a chance for Stephanie to help someone else. If we can prevent this from happening to another person, then we've accomplished a lot of the goal," Carmon Bennett said.

Attorneys for the apartment complex said there was nothing that their clients could have done to prevent Bennett's death.

"This was not a foreseeable crime. This was committed by the criminal, and the criminal should be responsible. We don't think it would be appropriate to hold the landowner responsible in civil court for a crime they didn't commit," attorney Dan Hartzog said.

"Mr. Planten is now dead, and the case is not about him. The case is about what was known out at Bridgeport and what they chose not to do," said Charles Bentley, Bennett's attorney.

Jury selection in the case is set to begin Wednesday. About 100 witnesses are on the witness list, so the trial could take several weeks.
7 Comments

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  • mpgrant Jan 18, 2007

    Individuals are responsible for their own personal security to higher degree than the management at any apartment community. I can sympathize with the family of the victim but at what point do you say something tragic happened and its no one's fault but the individual that committed the crime and has now paid for it by taking his own life. This single female lived on the bottom floor. That in itself doesn't ensure your safety from being a target of easy access from people lurking around your building. Where was her father's insistence that she not live on a ground floor unit if he was that concerned with her safety. If she lived on the top floor, whose to say, she still wasn't a target of the criminal that killed her who could have been obssesed to the point that he'd kill her wherever she lived, bottom floor or top floor not obstructed by trees or shrubbery. As a tenant of an apartment complex myself, I am very wary of my surroundings and ensure my own personal security. I und

  • ahirshp Jan 3, 2007

    Seriously, do blame the apartment complex. There are certain laws that require apartment complexes, places of business, and public facilities to keep their hedges/shrubbery trimmed and at certain heights, for all locks to be checked and working, and for the facilities maintaince to be at certain standards at all times. After following this case since the beginning, I am glad Mr. Bennet is filing suit on the apartment complex owners. It is their responsibility to maintain their property, not the renters. Also, let us not be so naive to believe that as soon as the problems were reported to the apartment managers/owners they would have been fixed immediately. As a renter myself, this just does not happen. As for finding a new apartment, some people just can’t up and leave their apartment complex whether it be because of a contract or rent elsewhere is unaffordable. Yes it was a bit irresponsible of her to not report these problems, but remember she was young woman in college. I would sa

  • saetravina Jan 3, 2007

    Seriously, don't blame the apartment complex for the lack of responsibility of the child. The complex will not know if someone has broken the lock if they are not notified. She should have reported that immediatly, not just left it. All someone has to do is notify the apartment office/owners and it WILL be fixed. Stop blaming others for your own negligence. i think it's very ignorant for people to blame the apartment complex also when they have no idea and have never worked in that environment. I have, I know how it works. Now if they knew that this guy had been prowling, yes they should call the police and have the place watched, it's possible. Even though I am truly sorry for her family, Just don't keep blaming others.

  • Peter the Pony Jan 2, 2007

    If the window lock was not functioning, the shrubbery was too high, or there were any other issues that caused her to worry about her safety, she should have insisted that they be fixed, simply fixed them herself, or found a new apartment where she felt safe. Where was this father, who supposedly knew about all these unresolved issues with this apartment? Could he not have grabbed his toolbox and gone to help his daughter fix some things? What is more important -- proving who is right and wrong, or protecting oneself and one's children?

  • builder276 Jan 2, 2007

    If the apartment complex knew these issues existed, they should have remedied the situation. These problems would to have been brought to their attention. I do not know if Ms. Bennett reported the unlockable window or the bushes to the complex. If she did, then they get what they deserve. if she did not, then, I would not be able to find that they were at fault. fact of the matter is, that they can not read the minds of their tenants. as far as him being seen there at an earlier date, Unsavory people are seen all over town. How are you to predict if someone is going to do something like this. It was a tragic situation, I don't know all the facts as to their liablity and because of that, will not draw conclusions until I do. I do know that if she did not feel safe, she should have moved to an apartment that she did feel safe in. That would have been solely her responsibilty. Noone else can make you safe, you have to take responsibilty for that yourself.

  • spiritwarriorwoman Jan 2, 2007

    "Carmon Bennett maintains in the lawsuit that Bridgeport Apartments failed to protect his daughter from her killer. He alleges that his daughter's window failed to lock, that shrubbery around the building was too high and that there was inadequate lighting.
    "A prowler later identified as Planten had been seen near the apartment prior to her murder, and Bennett's attorneys said the apartment complex was aware of that fact."
    Regardless of what the company's attorney says, they ARE responsible as they knew that this guy had been prowling and did nothing about it.
    I pray for her family.
    God bless.
    RB
    <

  • Forgetaboutit Jan 2, 2007

    It is about time these gigantic corporations, residing in god knows where, are held responsible for their actions. They neglected their residents when crime reports provided evidence that would cause normal people to take prudent action. Failure to do something, when reports of peeping tom were firmly established, is criminal. But their actions will not see the inside of a criminal court. Mr. Bennett, good luck to you sir!