Local News

Murder suspect's mother files lawsuit against state

Posted May 8, 2008

— The mother of a murder suspect who committed suicide while in custody has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming it failed to protect her son while he was being held.

Drew Planten – who was arrested in October 2005 in connection with the May 2002 rape and homicide of 23-year-old Stephanie Bennett – hanged himself in his prison cell at Central Prison in Raleigh on Jan. 2, 2006.

A State Bureau of Investigation inquiry found there was no foul play in his death and there was nothing correctional officers could have done to stop him.

Planten's mother, however, Stephanie Chandler, claims the Department of Correction and the state Department of Health and Human Services failed to comply with applicable standards of care for her son, who had been diagnosed with acute stress reaction.

Following an initial court appearance in which Planten was unresponsive and catatonic, he was transferred from the Wake County Jail to Central Prison to await trial.

The suit says Planten, 35, was placed in solitary confinement and had been the focus of a suicide watch at different intervals through his detention.

But when his mental health began improving, he wasn't allowed outside his cell for more than an hour a week, despite policies in place for stress disorder patients while they are in solitary confinement, the lawsuit says.

"His condition severely deteriorated," the lawsuit says. "He became withdrawn and unresponsive again. His declining mental status culminated in Drew's death when he hung himself."

Chandler's also alleges her son did not get consistent mental health counseling, and an affidavit from a former Central Prison psychiatrist states patients "were going months at a time with no face-to-face contact" with clinicians.

The state has filed a routine motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The case will be heard by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

Chandler did not return calls Thursday from WRAL seeking comment. But in a 2006 interview following her son's death, she said she did not think the prison "tried very hard" to keep him safe.

"I couldn't believe they could allow this to happen when he was being supposedly in psychiatric ward, where they would be mindful of his demeanor and mood," she said.

Bennett's father said Thursday he does not think there was any merit to the case.

"Planten was a very intelligent individual," Carmon Bennett said. "He us used it in all the wrong ways. The day he was arrested he had a .9 mm on his possession, and if he had had a chance to use it. I think he would have committed suicide then."

A maintenance employee at Bridgeport Apartments found Stephanie Bennett's body inside her first-floor unit on May 21, 2002. An autopsy showed she had been raped and strangled.

Carmon Bennett, who has filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex claiming it didn't address safety issues that could have helped prevent the slaying, said Chandler's complaint has dredged up painful memories for him and his family.

"Yes, it's painful," he said. "It just brings back all the bad things about Stephanie's tragic loss of life."


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  • sunshine1224 May 9, 2008


  • sini27 May 8, 2008

    Everyone answers to God in the end, and I would LOVE to hear her explanation for this one, as well as her explanation for her two sorry excuses for sons. They didn't just fall out of the clouds, you know...

  • howdiditgettothis May 8, 2008

    From WRAL's archives: http://www.wral.com/news/local/asset_gallery/1066038/

    It says Sarah Chandler is an attorney in Michigan, and that her son learned his "non responsive" behavior (upon arrest) from an abusive father.

    She's got a lot of courage filing a lawsuit against the state now.

    It must have been growing......all the time she stayed in that abusive marriage, not protecting her sons from abuse.
    If she couldn't protect her own sons, then what makes her think someone else is legally able to do so......especially after he has raped and killed an innocent girl (or two).

    Heck - she didn't even communicate with him when she was gathering his possessions once he was jailed here in Raleigh.

    Her other son was arrested for peeping tom issues, as well.

    Did she ever once think about what SHE herself did that was helpful for either of her sons?

    If you raise two criminals, it's a pretty good guess you should NOT have been a parent.

  • Builder03 May 8, 2008

    She did the best she could. He had the finest food stamps and aide to families, we all paid for. Maybe it was the failure of the schools and the teachers. Perhaps it was the police who failed him, by bothering to arrest him for his crimes. He didn't mean to do wrong. He is just a victim of society. We all failed him.....yea right.

  • Heatherbrook May 8, 2008

    Pot calling the kettle BLACK Where was the mother? What help did she get for her son? Appears to me that the victims parents should be suing her.

  • flipper59 May 8, 2008

    this is the dumbest thing i have ever read in here. someone please tell this woman to get a life

  • kermelbar May 8, 2008

    "The state has filed a lawsuit against the mother of a murder suspect, claiming she failed to protect society from her son."

    Agree completely. Don't forget that another one of the sons she did such a fine job of raising was fired from his job in Raleigh after it was discovered that he had placed hidden cameras in the women's restroom.

    She owes the women of North Carolina (and Michigan, where it's believed Drew may have killed another woman or two) a HUGE apology. North Carolina owes her nothing.

  • zeitghost May 8, 2008

    This should have read:

    The state has filed a lawsuit against the mother of a murder suspect, claiming she failed to protect society from her son.

    Some litigator is looking to make a buck. I'm sure that's all there really is to this.

  • beachboater May 8, 2008

    Several have questioned what lawyer would stoop so low as to take a case like this.

    I truly suspect that a lawyer called her and suggested the lawsuit. Happens everyday. Remember Dwayne Dail who was released after 18 years and was compensated by the state and his child's mother sued for child support?? Same type deal.

  • jlh4jdj May 8, 2008

    I agree with --Mr. Keeping it Real. Let her get money so that the parents of the murder victims can sue her for not properly raising her son. I will say this for the mom she's brave, stupid but brave.