Nicole Bennett was a 35-year-old Millsboro woman who worked at Bay Shore Babies and SPLASH in Gumboro during the summer of 2012. She had a husband and three daughters, their ages ranging from 11 years to 15 months old. She was living a life that many in this community happily live — work, family, church.
That ended abruptly when her life was taken from her and her family by Dagsboro resident Matthew Burton.
We don’t say “allegedly” in this instance, because Burton recently pleaded guilty to the crime, following years of avoiding prosecution by fighting extradition from Maryland, where Bennett’s body was discovered. Burton has admitted guilt to this senseless and horrifying crime, so there is no “alleged” to this story.
As part of his plea, Burton has been sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for his crimes — 15 years for rape, and 15 years for murder. He was technically given 40 years for second-degree murder, suspended after 15 years, and 25 years for rape, also suspended after 15 years.
That’s a grand total of 30 years in prison. For raping and murdering a family woman who was trying to work. He is also credited for time served, and he has been in jail since 2012.
Matthew Burton is 33 years old. If he serves an additional 25 years for his egregious and repugnant crime, he will be out of prison and on probation at the age of 58. If he is released earlier, then he will obviously be younger when he hits the streets again.
We know a plea deal saves the courts money, and that is something all of us can appreciate. But letting a convicted murderer and rapist, who was already a registered Tier 1, “low-risk” sex offender before the crime, out in the community at an age when he can still hurt a lot of people seems unreasonable, unfair and dangerous.
A wife and mother was taken from her family when she should have had decades of memories ahead of her. This was not a case of someone making a mistake that he will pay for forever. This was a heinous and despicable crime, and the penalty should appropriately fit the action.