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.
Posted by Robert A. Waters at 11:57 PM