GEORGETOWN, Del. - Nearly five years after Nicole Bennett was raped and murdered, her case finally closed Wednesday in Sussex County Superior Court. Matthew Burton accepting a plea deal with the state for second degree murder and second degree rape.
For second degree murder and second degree rape Burton will serve 30 years followed by 10 years probation.
With credit for time served since July 2012 it's more like a 25 year sentence. Burton will be in his late 50's by his potential release.
The Bennett family said they were disappointed with the sentence considering Burton faced life imprisonment.
"I just don't... I just don't think this is justice," said Bob Bennett, Nicole's father-in-law. " We always thought that he would face life imprisonment... and he's not."
Bennett explained Nicole's parents were also disheartened by the news. He said after he got the call from the state Tuesday night informing him that they had reached a plea deal he called Steve Reiser, Nicole's father, to share the news.
"This is a hard day for Steve Reiser. I talked to Steve as I said last night on the phone and it was hard. It was hard. This is not the justice he sought," Bennett said.
In the courtroom the Bennett family was emotional even before the proceedings started. The gravity of the moment clearly weighing on them.
As part of the plea deal the judge asked Burton if he accepted guilt for the rape and murder of Nicole Bennett. He replied with a somber "yes". The moment seemingly bringing tears to Kevin Bennett eyes, Nicole's husband.
"Well to see him actually admit it was hard," Kevin Bennett said. "It was hard to just sit down in there. I'm glad I had Dad beside me I wanted to just jump the fence, the gate there, but no it was hard. It was hard to be in the same room with him."
Burton was a custodian at the Bayshore Community Church in Millsboro where Nicole was working the night of June 14th 2012. That's when he killed her, later dumping her body across state lines in Maryland.
Following the case 47 ABC reached out to the state to ask their reasoning for accepting a plea deal.
"This was a difficult case and it was considered by the most senior homicide prosecutors in the entire state, who reviewed all of the evidentiary and jurisdictional issues that would be presented in a trial and determined that this was an appropriate result," said Office of the Attorney General communications assistant Nicole Magnusson.
Starting Wednesday Delaware will have 60 days to determine what restitution if any Burton will have to pay to the Bennetts.
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