Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Monstrous Crimes of Eric Charles Nenno


Seven-year-old Nicole Benton was excited. Her father, a guitarist, was celebrating his birthday in the Ranch Country Subdivision in Hockley, Texas. Buddy Benton’s band was playing for neighbors and a cookout was in progress. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Eric Charles Nenno lived two doors down. He worked as a salesman for a plumbing supply company. Unmarried, a loner, he had a secret no one knew about. He fantasized about having sex with pre-teen girls.

On that day, March 23, 1995, Nicole was just a few feet away from her father when she vanished.

Dense forests surrounded the neighborhood and searchers at first thought the child may have gotten lost. Neighbors wore pink ribbons as they scoured the woods while police went door to door looking for clues. Soon it became apparent that Nicole had probably been abducted.

Two days later, a neighbor approached police. He confided that Eric Nenno had recently been accused of fondling a ten-year-old neighborhood girl.

Police rushed to Nenno’s home. “When police showed up at his house,” a reporter from the Associated Press wrote, “Nenno invited them in and appeared nervous when they asked about the girl. He agreed to go to a police command [post] that had been set up nearby and agreed to talk with authorities, who asked him what he thought happened to the girl. His response was that he thought she [had been] abducted, raped and murdered.”

When asked who he thought may have done it, he replied, “Someone like me.”

Nenno was asked to submit to a polygraph test. He agreed, and was strapped to the machine. After several questions, the examiner stopped. He stared at Nenno, saying nothing. Nenno fidgeted for several minutes, then blurted out: “I flunked it, didn’t I?”

The examiner asked him where Nicole’s body was located.

“It’s still in the attic, I think.” Nenno replied. Then he said, “They’re going to kill me for this, aren’t they?”

Nenno signed a consent form and investigators converged on his home. Inside, in the attic crawl-space, they found the nude body of Nicole. She’d been beaten, strangled, and raped.

Nenno explained how he’d abducted the child. He’d told her that he wanted to pick up his guitar so he could perform with her father’s group and he asked her to accompany him. Nicole followed him to his house.

Once inside, Nenno attempted to have sex with the child. When she resisted, he beat her. Then he strangled her. For nearly two days, Nenno repeatedly raped the corpse before hiding her in his attic.

In his confession, the salesman claimed that for many years he’d fought his dark side, an urge to have sex with young girls. The compulsion, he said, had grown stronger and darker until he could no longer control it. When he saw Nicole, he claimed he couldn’t help himself.

During his trial, the ten-year-old neighbor testified that he offered to repair her broken bicycle. After fixing it, she alleged that he molested her. With this testimony as well as his confession to Nicole’s murder and the massive amounts of physical evidence presented by prosecutors, Nenno was quickly convicted and sentenced to death.

For thirteen years, his appeals have been denied. His latest made the bizarre claim that the silence of the polygrapher forced him to make statements he would not have ordinarily made. Because of those admissions, his lawyers claimed, he should have a new trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals summarily dismissed that argument and a federal district court followed suit.

Nenno is scheduled to be executed on October 23, 2008. Unless something unusual occurs, he has run out of appeals and should finally face Lady Justice.

10 comments:

Marlene said...

Well he was executed 5 days after schedule October 28, 2008. (Glad that I found this blog)

shelby said...

I lived three blocks from Eric and Nichole--she shared a class with my oldest son at school in '95. I remember a knock at my door and being in the early a.m. hour and police were showing me a picture of Nichole and questioning if we seen her lately and she was missing. I allowed them in my backyard because we had a playhouse for my kids.Eric did get a knock on his door and questioned Nichole's where about and he denied seeing her. Eric left his house and helped with the search as though he was innocent. It was his neighbor across the street from Eric who saw him helping with the search and she (13 at the time) told the police Eric should be taken in for questioning because Eric made several attempts trying to get her or the neighbor kids to go to his house louring them with candy. She would always refuse. When police arrested Eric they retrieved a wooden board with evidence of semen on it-there was a knot (hole) so he could watch children and ejaculate on the fence. My son is 22 today and is still grief stricken that someone could do such a monstrous thing to an innocent child.

Reebz said...

Nicki was my cousin. It was very traumatic for the whole family.
Here is the link to her on line memorial.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5411299%3Cbr%3E

Marie said...

I remember this like it was yesterday. In 1995 I was only 11 years old, but as a child I knew to stay away from that house. His nephew had molested my neighbor's daughters, he used to watch me at the bus stop, my friend saw his privates through the fence once when she was riding her bike, and he chased me and a friend down the street once trying to get us. He also tried to get the little girl next door, and I remember seeing her when he was "fixing" her bike once. I told her to leave and she did, but he was visibly upset that I interfered. The days following the abduction and prior to his arrest he still watched me at my bus stop.I spoke with the police and the reporters and told them to look in that house (although I don't think that I am the girl referenced above because I didn't testify). He was a sick person, and I will never forget the tragedy that this family suffered....even 17 years later. It is engrained in my childhood memories...and I am so sorry for your loss!

Christina said...

I'm her sister, Christina. I felt like this had been my fault for over ten years because I was supposed to protect my little sister. I was 8 years old, and only 30 feet from her when he got her. Had I not been sitting behind my dad's drumset, I would have seen him and saved her. It took my entire youth and then some to forgive myself, then find the courage to forgive this man. Justice was served and Nicole is in a place we all dream of being. Just remember to never take your brother, sister, or children for granted, because you never know when they'll be taken.

Christina said...

I'm her sister, Christina. I felt like this had been my fault for over ten years because I was supposed to protect my little sister. I was 8 years old, and only 30 feet from her when he got her. Had I not been sitting behind my dad's drumset, I would have seen him and saved her. It took my entire youth and then some to forgive myself, then find the courage to forgive this man. Justice was served and Nicole is in a place we all dream of being. Just remember to never take your brother, sister, or children for granted, because you never know when they'll be taken.

Marie said...

Christina,

Everyone, including myself, blamed themselves for what happened. Would she still be here if we had reported him for chasing us? If I had called the cops when he eyed me at the bus stop? The truth is that even if we had all done something different, this man was dedicated to doing something horrible. Sadly, there is nothing anyone could have done to stop him. It is because of Nicole that I hold my children so closely. When the world lost her, everyone around her learned the value of life. We learned that natural causes and accidents were not the only threats to our lives. She lives in my memory, and in the memories of every person from that community. Like many others I spent years feeling guilty..after that, I resolved to learn from her death..remain vigilent and teach my kids that they can tell me about things that are not right with their neighbors...im so sorry you blamed yourself..and if there is ever anything you need...you can email me...you have support even now...even if all i can do is listen..evamariesegobia@gmail.com..your sister will never be forgotten...

deb said...

Christina, this would be anyone's fault but yours. If people would have come forward about his previous encounters sooner, this could have been avoided. I remember you and Nicole from Roberts Road and the day this happened. It was very tragic. I'm so sorry Nicole, you, and your family had to suffer through this.

Kathie said...

This is just awful. I'm so sorry that little Nichole was killed. It only reminds me of the neighbor boy who raped me when I was about 9 and then said I couldn't tell anyone. Because I'd been abused by my father (and he'd said the same thing), I never told. I wish I had, because they moved and in later years, when I got into therapy I always wondered how many other little girls he raped because I never told. He said if I told they'd take me away from my mother and sisters. I was so scared and so ashamed. I couldn't stop crying and my mother didn't even ask me what was wrong.

Megan said...

I am so sorry for your loss Christina, your sister is God's loving arms. Nichole is always with you and she would want you to live a full and happy life. May you find peace.