Thursday, July 10, 2014 Last updated 2:54 AM
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated Cami Umbarger’s job title. She is a licensed practical nurse.
Authorities on Tuesday arrested a man wanted in connection with the homicides of a 29-year-old woman and her three young children, who were found dead in their Parsons home Monday after the mother was reported missing by colleagues concerned that she hadn’t shown up for work.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office confirmed late Tuesday that David Cornell Bennett Jr. had been taken into custody at 9:15 p.m. in Independence, located about 30 miles south and west of Parsons. The arrest ends a daylong manhunt for the 22-year-old, who had been sought by authorities in the deaths of Cami Umbarger and her three young children – Hollie, Jaxon and Averie.
Bennett, of Cherryvale, was spotted earlier Tuesday at an Independence Dollar General store, located on the west side of town, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said following the 12:45 p.m. sighting. The sheriff’s office had advised residents that he should be considered armed and dangerous.
As of Tuesday, no formal charges against Bennett had been filed, according to a written statement received Tuesday from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s Office.
Authorities remain tight-lipped about the investigation, refusing to say how the family died or what relationship, if any, Umbarger had with the suspect.
During a phone interview with The Eagle on Tuesday, Wichitan Beth Umbarger said family and friends told her Bennett and her sister “had went out a few times” a few months ago.
But, she said, the 29-year-old single mother apparently “broke it off” after her suitor “started acting pretty scary toward my sister.”
“She’d been trying to stay away from him and he just kept coming back and going back,” Beth Umbarger said.
“She was just hoping that he would leave her alone ... and she would be able to move past it.”
Authorities found Cami Umbarger and her three children dead in their home at 415 N. 25th St. in Parsons on Monday, Beth Umbarger said. She said that autopsies were being performed and that it would be two or three days before family learned more.
She called her nieces and nephew “happy kids – always on the run, wanting to play.”
Nine-year-old Hollie, a fourth-grader, loved to play tackle football, arguing with her mom that volleyball wasn’t her sport.
Six-year-old Jaxon, a kindergartener, took karate lessons.
The youngest, 4-year-old preschooler named Averie, “was a bundle of energy.”
Their mother, meanwhile, was helping to plan Beth’s January wedding, where she would serve as maid of honor.
“I want them back. I miss them. You go through life every day and you never expect that this would happen to you,” Beth Umbarger said.
“I want to tell her one more time ‘I love you’ and I want to hug the kids and hear them ... come running to me one more time.”
Police reportedly learned that Umbarger was missing after her co-workers at Good Samaritan Society of Parsons alerted police Monday that she didn’t show up for work, facility administrator Joanna Wilson said. Authorities later discovered that the children were missing, too.
“That’s just not like her,” said Wilson of Umbarger, who worked as a licensed practical nurse.
“We’re a close-knit group. If someone is missing and you were expecting her, you’d reach out and see where they are.”
Wilson said Umbarger had worked for the hospice and therapy facility for “quite a long time.” Her children, she added, were beautiful and “part of the family,” growing up around staff and residents.
Family said Cami Umbarger was also employed part-time by Parsons Presbyterian Manor. She graduated from nursing school in 2006.
“She has many dear friends (here), and we’re working through it,” Wilson said of Cami and her children’s deaths. “It’s been a tough time.”
Additional counselors were called in Tuesday to talk to students and staff at Parsons schools, which Umbarger’s three children attended, district superintendent Shelly Martin said. She said school officials received word of the deaths Monday evening, “so we were prepared” when students and teachers returned Tuesday, the final school day before Thanksgiving break.
The counselors, as well as substitute teachers, also will be on hand when classes resume after the holiday, Martin said. Parsons, a district with 1,360 students total, has three elementary schools: Lincoln, for pre-kindergarten through first grade; Garfield, for second- and third-graders; and Guthridge, which serves grades four and five.
Umbarger’s children attended two of those.
“At both schools, we tried to keep the day as normal as possible for the children,” Martin , the superintendent, said.
She called the killings a tragedy.
“Obviously everyone is deeply saddened and shocked by the news of the death of our students and their mother. In a town the size of Parsons, this affects everyone.”
A candlelight vigil to remember Cami Umbarger and her children is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in front of the family’s home at 415 N. 25th St. in Parsons. Funeral services have been set for 2 p.m. Monday at Thayer Christian Church, 8495 Dorn Rd. in Thayer.
Visitation will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, 405 Main St. in Parsons.
Parsons is approximately 125 miles southeast of Wichita in Labette County.
Contributing: Hurst Laviana of The Eagle
Judge agrees to third evaluation for Bennett
Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 7:02 pm
A man accused of quadruple homicide in Labette County will undergo another psychological evaluation so a judge can ultimately determine if he’s competent to stand trial.
David Cornell Bennett Jr., 25, is charged in Labette County District Court with capital murder or in the alternative four counts of first-degree murder. The punishment for capital murder is death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole, but the punishment requires an additional hearing after a finding of guilt. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, filed notice that it is seeking the death penalty against Bennett. Bennett also faces a rape charge, three counts of criminal threat, all felonies, and four misdemeanors, two counts of phone harassment and two counts of criminal deprivation of property.
Bennett is accused of strangling Cami Umbarger and her three children, Hollie Betts, 9, Jaxon Betts, 6, and Averie Betts, 4, in November 2013. Their bodies were discovered on Nov. 25, 2013, at Umbarger’s home in Parsons after she didn’t show up for work.
Bennett has already undergone an evaluation at Larned State Security Hospital, which determined he was competent to stand trial. A person is considered incompetent if he or she cannot understand the nature and consequences of the legal proceedings and cannot assist properly in his or her own defense.
Bennett’s defense is handled by the state’s Death Penalty Defense Unit, a division of the Kansas Board of Indigents’ Defense Services. His attorneys are Tim Frieden, Jeffrey Wicks and Jeffrey Dazey. Only Frieden and Dazey attended Tuesday’s hearing on several issues, most related to Bennett’s ability to stand trial.
After Larned’s evaluation, which Bennett’s defense team contests, Bennett received an additional psychological evaluation from Dr. Robert Barnett, an expert hired by the defense who opined that Bennett was incompetent to stand trial. Barnett claimed that Bennett is mildly to moderately mentally impaired and suffers auditory hallucinations, which combined make him incompetent to stand trial.
The AG’s office wanted to hire its own expert, Dr. Mitchell R. Flesher, to evaluate Bennett for competency. Jessica Domme, an assistant attorney general, also wants Bennett tested to determine if he’s malingering, or feigning or exaggerating his mental or physical condition. There is evidence that Bennett didn’t fully cooperate at Larned, attorneys said. Domme asked for court permission to hire two psychologists to evaluate Bennett, suggesting Barnett and Flesher, or others if Frieden and Dazey disputed these two.
After some argument, Judge Robert Fleming agreed that Barnett and Flesher could evaluate Bennett. It’s unclear if Barnett will conduct a separate evaluation or if his recent evaluation would stand.
Fleming also asked who would pay to hire Flesher, an issue that Domme was to research. Defense experts are paid for through the Board of Indigents Defense Services.
A hearing on pre-trial motions in Bennett’s case is set for Feb. 8 and 9 and Flesher’s evaluation and findings are to be done by then so Fleming can determine if Bennett is competent to stand trial.
Bennett’s trial is scheduled to begin July 10
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 4:06 AM
It took city officials five months to confirm what neighbors suspected immediately: 3-year-old Caleb Rivera was a murder victim.
“I had an idea,” said Nikki Whatley, 39, who performed CPR on the gaunt little boy outside their East Harlem apartment building last August.
“I still see that boy’s eyes in my nightmare and in my dreams,” said Whatley, the mother of four. “That boy was lifeless when I got to him.”
Caleb’s death was declared a homicide Friday after the city medical examiner determined he was killed by multiple blows to the head and neck.
The boy’s mother, who was in their apartment with two men when Caleb was mortally injured, insisted she had no idea who was to blame for her son’s killing.
“I am not talking to anybody about anything,” mom Alexandra Guzman said from behind the door of her apartment on Friday. “I am not giving up anything. Why are you harassing me?”
Asked specifically who killed little Caleb Rivera, the mother answered, “Nobody. It was — have a good day. Nobody. That is the only answer you’ll get from me.”
Construction worker Adrian Rivera, 24, the child’s father, said he’s suspected for months that Guzman was hiding something.
“He was a happy healthy baby and I loved my baby,” he said. “They should both go to jail. I want to know: Did he do this and then she covered up? If the police won’t do something, I will.”
Rivera said after he and Guzman broke up, she barred him from seeing Caleb. He said he begged her to bring the baby to his mother’s house. “She wouldn’t. I texted her the week before (Caleb died): ‘Please bring me my baby.’ She said she was good where she was. She wouldn’t bring him to me, and then this happened.”
April, Child Abuse Awareness month, has passed. It went by without any comment from the Director of Social Services, Ted Myers (“…blood is thicker than water…”, or attorney Andrew Wolf, (“…we do the legally correct thing…”).
interviews with Santa Barbara’s KEYT-TV a few of years ago on the question
raised by a Ventura County Star editorial regarding the whereabouts of Mario,
these gentlemen, in making the above statements, attempted to explain why Social Service workers,
and an a child advocate attorney advocate and/or permit the re-unification of
an abused child with its abuser(s). Mario was a toddler beaten into a coma by his mother. Social workers reunified Mario with his mother even though he continued to be abused.
We have heard, and continue to hear, numerous times that Social Services’ purpose is to protect children from abuse. The child’s advocate in Court is supposed to also protect their right to freedom from abuse. Neither succeeds.
And the reason they do not is revealed by their statements. Their hands are tied. Mr. Wolf is correct, re-unification is the legally correct thing to do, never mind that questions of ethics and morality are raised by the re-unification of a person who lacks love and parenting skills with a child who is helpless to speak for or defend himself.
And, yes, though it is a convenient and telling euphemism, blood is thicker than water. It merely goes to prove the point that a tiny human feels a craving for and needs love from the only caregiver it has known from birth. Though the child bonds, the adult may not want to or cannot commit to a responsibility.
Congress, in its infinite wisdom, saw the tragedies brought about by the abuse of children. They saw not only the physical and emotional effects, but also acknowledged that deaths of children were sometimes the outcome of such conduct. They further saw the financial toll upon society, not only for the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries, but upon the fact that some of these children become a financial burden rather than positive contributors to society. As Congress does best they began the battle against child abuse by passing laws, in this case, Title 42 of the United States Code, Chapter 67, Section 5106a.
This released money to fund Social Services and created responsibilities to fund programs. It created a confidentiality clause to protect not only the child’s identity and reputation but also that of the abuser. It required every State to pass a law saying that re-unification of the abused with its abuser was not required. But it also stated that despite a parent or caregiver having killed or assaulted a child the State (read as Judge), could, on a case by case basis, reunify a child of the sibling with the killer or abuser. Congress sat back; it had passed a law to protect children.
words, blood is thicker than water and re-unification is the legally correct
thing to do, regardless of what further injuries the
child will suffer.
I recently attended a meeting where I listened to
gut-wrenching stories from adults who feared for the safety of their children
who were reporting sexual crimes against them by family members. As the founder of The Children’s Wall of
Tears™, these stories are not new to me as I hear hundreds of cases each year.
Recently Leo and I visited the great city of Oklahoma and toured the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial. Without a doubt, this memorial strengthened our faith in the American people, our patriotism and our feelings against terrorism. We could not help but walk away from this great monument with a passion that undoubtedly carved our futures. Throughout our tour of the memorial we could not help but think about the 168 lives lost in this horrific event. There was one particular photo on the wall of the daycare center showing children that were signed-in that fateful day. It haunts us. What madman would callously murder innocent children, let alone adults?
We read every sign and studied every photo in the museum. We were overwhelmed with sadness and rage at the very same time. We began to systematically think about terrorism and what it really means and how it affects our lives.
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terroization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Terrorism begins with creating a fear within the victim and escalates quickly to injury and in many cases death. Until September 11, 2001, few Americans were aware that terror existed beyond that seen on movies or on TV. After 911, we became aware of our vulnerability to suffering at the hands of people who find it acceptable to inflict pain on innocent people without blinking an eye. The bombing in Oklahoma City traumatized this great nation. We were forced to face the anxiety of knowing that at any time, in any place, violence can strike, and in that respect, we are now victims of terrorism.
While we feel a deep sadness for the victims of the attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., the plane crash in Pennsylvania and their families and the Oklahoma City Bombing and their families, who have lived to suffer the devastating pain of the loss of a loved one, we began to think about the children here in the United States who live under this anxiety every day. How did we overlook their terrorism? Most call it child abuse. We call it child cruelty.
In child’s world, violence comes not at the hands of politically motivated extremists, but from their parents or caregivers. Suffering comes not from weapons of mass destruction, but fists, belts, scalding water, locked in dark closets, and cruel words. Attacks are not a rare occurrence, but a daily reality. Knowing that it is coming is the epitome of terrorism especially since a child is incapable of defending himself and does not know where to turn to avoid the torture and pain of neglect or abuse.
We kept thinking about the fact that while we watched news coverage of buildings crumbling and thousands of terrified, innocent people running for their lives, young spirits are being crushed at the hands of heartless adults with no high-profile media coverage to spark a country to awareness and action. Yes, we occasionally see, hear and read of young victims being abused or killed, but, few people are moved to act. The usual response to such news is an “…Oh, no!...” statement, and then on to breaking news.
While troops of rescue workers sift through debris in a desperate attempt to recover victims, young children are cowering in corners after yet another merciless beating, wondering if anyone cares enough to rescue them. While an entire nation mourns for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Oklahoma City Bombing, abused children continue to suffer horrifically with no tears of sadness shed on their behalf. Is it apathy on the part of the general public? Apparently so. we don’t see any great rush of humanity at the breaking story of another child being beaten or killed. Nor do we see more than platitudes from public officials or legislators. Yes, you will hear comments that such and such should be investigated. You hear that so and so is understaffed, overworked, and over whelmed but you do not hear from the front line workers who deal with child abuse on a daily basis.
For the past 25 years, we have been working to increase America’s awareness to the horrors of child cruelty and to bring the reality of the unimaginable level of physical and mental suffering these children deal with to the forefront.
We have written numerous commentaries and letters to the editors of newspapers and given speeches and talks to various groups and organizations. We have spoken in Washington, D.C. before a distinguished group of professionals and even sponsored a law in the California Legislature to provide computerized criminal history to child protective service workers so that they do not reunify the child with criminals. Unfortunately, that law failed in the appropriations department. Apparently $50,000 for the entire State of California is not worth protecting children. We have spent anguished hours over the opposition we have received and welcomed the pats on the back. But, child cruelty continues and children continue to live the daily terror awaiting the next blow.
Statistics show that everyday, scores of children are terrorized by abusive parents and that list continues to grow each year. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Every 5 hours a child is killed. In cold, hard terms that means that every day a small hand is held over a flame, an infant is dipped in scalding water, a child is forced to swallow household cleansers, an empty stomach grumbles while parents eat, a terrified toddler trembles in a dark, locked closet, a tiny arm is broken, a life comes to a premature end. The scenes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were difficult to look at, but, they can’t compare to the scenes that flash in front of the small eyes of an abused child.
I leave it to you to decide if a child, under these circumstances, is experiencing not only terror but wondering when it all will end.
The unified resolve shown by the American people following the recent terrorist attacks is impressively powerful and elicits confidence that swift, sure action will be taken to punish and prevent terrorist acts. If only that same level of mass resolve were focused on saving abused children. If only our country stood unified in the defense of these helpless children, how many young victims of daily terrorism could be saved? How many small spirits could be recovered? How many terrorists could be stopped?
We wonder what horrendous atrocity must occur to a child before every American resolves to put an end to child cruelty in every home in which it occurs.We have stated before, in print and speeches, that there is a pandemic of child cruelty throughout the world. Now, with the advent of the bird flu, mad cow disease, tainted spinach, Aids and other “epidemics”, the word pandemic has become as familiar to us as the word terrorism and, unfortunately, we must now state that a pandemic of child cruelty now exists on this Planet.
Simply put in perspective, if a
disease were killing hundreds of children in America each year, the Center for Disease
Control would mobilize everything it could to find the cause. Federal and State governments would spend
millions on treatment and trying to find a cure. No stone would be left un-turned and no sum of
money would be too great in an effort to end the pandemic. Over 3,000 children are kiled through abuse and neglect each year. Is that not an epidemic in your eyes?
Yes, our lives were forever changed by our visit to the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial
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Body of Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found Near Lake Cachuma as His Father Is Accused of His Murder
The body of a missing 5-year-old California boy last seen in late April has been found near a Santa Barbara County lake, homicide detectives confirmed to PEOPLE Saturday.
Aramazd Andressian Jr. was found near Lake Cachuma on Friday, after additional leads brought homicide detectives back to the area searching for additional evidence.
The discovery came hours after the boy’s father, Aramazd Andressian Sr., was extradited to Los Angeles where he has been charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. The 35-year-old man was detained on June 23 in Las Vegas in connection with his son’s death, and is being held on $10 million bail on a single murder count.
The boy was last seen on April 20, when he and his father visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. They left the theme park around midnight.
Within a week of the boy’s disappearance, police arrested his dad on suspicion of one count of child endangerment and one count of child abduction. But they released him days later , citing “insufficient evidence.” It was not immediately clear what prompted his re-arrest.
Officials confirm that Andressian, Sr. and his wife, Ana Estevez, are embroiled in a bitter divorce, but they shared custody of their son.
Andressian, Jr. was supposed to be dropped off by his father in San Marino, California, on April 22 — but the elder Andressian failed to show. Instead, he was found passed out near his car in a nearby park. Police have alleged that the inside of his car was doused with gasoline and there were matches in his vehicle.
Andressian, Sr. told investigators he believed he was attacked, but he had no memory of the assault. He also told police he had taken some prescription medication that morning before falling unconscious, CNN reported .
“There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the timeline around his disappearance,” Andressian, Sr. wrote in a statement issued nearly a week after his son vanished. “The last time I saw my son was on Saturday morning, the 22nd, at Arroyo Park near my home in South Pasadena. After breakfast Aramazd Jr. wanted to go to the park before we were to meet his mother for a custody exchange at 9:00 a.m.”
“In one moment, I was at the park with my son, and then I found myself waking up in Huntington Memorial Hospital hours later,” he continued. “I was told that a good Samaritan found me unconscious on the ground near my car, with young Aramazd nowhere in sight. I can only speculate that I must have been attacked in the park, given my unresponsive state and subsequent physical condition.”
“My family and I are heartbroken and grief-stricken that Aramazd Jr. is missing and may be in harm’s way,” he continued. “I am pleading with the public to come forward with any knowledge of Aramazd Jr.’s whereabouts or information regarding the circumstances leading up to his disappearance.”
Estevez has also spoken publicly , pleading for the public’s help at a May news conference with law enforcement.
“There are no words to describe how devastated and heartbroken I am,” Estevez said through tears, before speaking directly to her son. “This message is for you my love: Be brave, honey. Don’t ever forget that mama loves you to the moon and the stars. I am counting the days until I see you honey, and I will never stop looking for you.”
“To those who are concealing my son, I pray every day that God will touch your heart and guide you to do the right thing and return my son,” she said.
Anyone with any information about this ongoing case can call the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at 323-890-5500 or police in South Pasadena, California, at 626-403-7297.