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Mom's tough love sends daughter to jail

A Harnett County mother decided to let her 17-year-old spend the night in jail and face charges for elbowing and hitting her younger sister.

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ANDERSON CREEK, N.C. — A Harnett County mother said she practiced tough love and let her teenage daughter spend a night in jail to teach her a lesson.

Sandra Martinez, of Anderson Creek, said she had finally had enough when her 17-year-old daughter, Stephanie Bennet, got out of control and attacked her 12-year-old sister, Caitlyn, after what started as an innocent water fight on Oct. 16.

"Caitlyn went to grab her, and she just reared back, elbowed her and then punched her," Martinez said.

Martinez told her older daughter to go outside and calm down, but Stephanie then kept yelling from a neighbor's porch and refused to come home. So, Caitlyn called 911, the mother said.

"She was done, done being hit, done being chased after by her sister, so she had already called the sheriff's department," Martinez said.

Stephanie kept arguing with deputies and her and her husband, so Martinez decided to let deputies charge and arrest her daughter. They handcuffed Stephanie and took her to the Harnett County Jail. She was charged with simple assault and given a $500 bond.

Instead of bailing her daughter out, Martinez let her spend the night in jail. Stephanie had to sleep on the floor because the jail was overcrowded, her mother said.

"I cried the whole night, and tossed and turned and went back and forth, 'Oh my God, she's going to hate me,'" Martinez said. "And as hard as it was to let her sit there that night, I did."

Stephanie has battled anger problems for years and been to numerous doctors and therapists, her mother said. Stephanie has thrown punches at both her parents when they tried to restrain her.

"She screams at the top of her lungs. She shakes. Her face turns red. She just goes into a rage," Martinez said.

Sheriff Larry Rollins said deputies have gone to the Martinez house to investigate a juvenile complaint five times in the past year. Martinez said she had let deputies take Stephanie away in handcuffs, but not charge her, once before.

The Department of Social Services also got involved when the sisters broke a window while shoving each other.

When Stephanie punched her younger sister, however, that was a tipping point, Martinez said.

"You see so many things on the news and in the paper where kids are running the neighborhoods and have no respect for authority and no respect for their parent," she said.

"And that's not what I'm trying to do as a parent. .... I'm trying to raise my children not to be a burden on society, but to contribute to it."

 After a night in jail and facing a court date and criminal record, Stephanie said that she has learned her lesson.

"I was scared," Stephanie said. "I don't want to spend my life like that.

"Every time my sister gets me upset, I'm like, leave me alone," she continued. "I'm going to drop it ... . I'm not trying to get back to where I was before."

Her mother said she hopes her daughter's sentiments are true and that she won't have to take drastic action again.

"I was pleasantly surprised that she said, 'I understand why you did it,'" Martinez said. "You want to be a responsible parent and teach your children right from wrong. I would do it again."


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