BAY CITY, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A young man who killed a 4-year-old boy on a central Michigan Indian reservation has been sentenced to 40 years in federal prison, the maximum under his plea agreement.
Anthony Bennett, 22, appeared in Bay City federal court Thursday, months after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and admitting he killed Carnel Chamberlain. Upon his release, Bennett is to be supervised for five years.
A mumbling Bennett apologized to the victim’s family before hearing his fate, saying “I’m very disappointed in myself and things.”
“Mr. Bennett, is a dangerous man,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington said upon handing down the sentence. “There is no other way to say it — Carnel’s loss is the result of a heinous and barbarous act, period.”
Bennett admitted to killing his girlfriend’s son in 2012 before burning and burying the remains under a home where the three lived on the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation, near Mount Pleasant.
Prosecutors said Carnel died during the perpetration of child abuse. Court testimony indicated that Bennett struck Carnel hard enough to fracture his skull.
“Bennett acted with callous and wanton disregard for Carnel’s life when he killed Carnel,” the plea agreement states. “In other words, Bennett killed Carnel with malice aforethought. After he killed Carnel, Bennett burned and partially buried his body in order to conceal what he had done.”
Carnel was last seen alive on June 21, 2012, before his mother went to work and left him with Bennett. A week-long search on the reservation ensued until Carnel’s remains were found buried outside his home.
Authorities say Carnel’s body was so badly burned that authorities had trouble identifying it as human remains. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade called it a “horrific crime.”
Jaimee Chamberlain told WWJ Newsradio 950 that she initially became suspicious when Bennett didn’t join her as she frantically searched for the child. She said that it seemed he might be “hiding something.”
Bennett was subsequently charged with an earlier assault on the boy, a key step that kept him in custody while authorities developed the murder case against him. A Nov. 7 grand jury indictment charged Bennett with first-degree murder, assaulting a child, assault with a dangerous weapon, animal cruelty and witness tampering.
Bennett could have faced a life sentence if he had been convicted at trial of first-degree murder.
“The plea ensures the certainty of conviction without putting the family through the pain of reliving the crime. The family was consulted on the terms of the plea agreement,” said Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Defense attorney John Shea said Bennett took responsibility for a serious crime.
“These are difficult cases. No one celebrates them,” Shea said. “I’m certain the government is not celebrating it, either.”
Murder cases are uncommon in federal court, but the government has jurisdiction over major crimes on Indian reservations.
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