Habitual felon faces lengthy sentence
A Waynesville man will spend up to 12-and-a-half years in jail for robbery and being a habitual felon following a three-day trial last week.
The robbery charge stemmed from an arrest in July 2011 when Chad Nathan Bennett robbed an early morning shift manager in the parking lot of Hardee’s on Russ Avenue around 3 a.m. He stole the man’s wallet and ran away toward McDonald’s.
The victim immediately called 9-1-1 and described the incident and Bennett. After some investigation, police created a photo lineup from which the victim was able to point out Bennett as his assailant.
A man later found the victim’s wallet, which Bennett had dropped near Kentucky Fried Chicken, and turned it into the Waynesville Police Department. Police never recovered the weapon used in the robbery, although the victim was consistent with his belief that he saw the glint of light off the blade of the knife.
Bennett admitted to having the clothes described by the victim but he continued to deny the robbery throughout the trial.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones said the jury had to consider all of the circumstantial evidence in the case and eventually returned a guilty verdict for the robbery.
The 31-year-old has been in and out of jail for a string of crimes since early 1999 including breaking and entering, larceny after breaking and entering, possession of a stolen firearm, possession with intent to sell marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, obtaining property by false pretense and possession of firearm by a felon. He’s even already served time for a previous habitual felon conviction.
North Carolina's habitual felon law enhances the penalty for those convicted of three previous separate felonies.
Following the trial, Bennett admitted his status as a habitual felon, which enhanced the sentence.
Because of his criminal history, Bennett was a level five out of six for felony sentencing, resulting in a sentence of 115 to 150 months in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections.
“This case illustrates the importance of the effective use of our habitual felon laws,” Jones said. “He has a long history of committing crimes in our community and this enables the judge to enhance the punishment because it recognizes his prior criminal history.”
Lt. Chris Chandler with the Waynesville Police Department said most of Bennett's past crimes were committed in Waynesville, and he has dealt with many of his cases, including the most recent.
He recognized the habitual felon law as useful for law enforcement who deal with the same criminals over and over.
"It aids law enforcement in keeping known convicted felons off the streets to protect the citizens we serve and it holds people that have demonstrated a pattern of criminal behavior more accountable for their crimes," Chandler said.