Matthew Burton, the 28-year-old Dagsboro man who has been charged with the murder of 35-year-old Nicole Bennett of Millsboro, will not be extradited to Maryland just yet.
On Monday, Aug. 6, Delaware Justice of the Peace Howard Mulvaney III granted Burton’s extradition to Maryland after reading affidavits from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Mally.
John Garey, one of Burton’s attorneys, then requested that the extradition be delayed, so that he and his colleague would have time to submit a writ of habeas corpus — a mandate to see whether or not Burton is being imprisoned lawfully and, if not, that he be released from custody.
According to “Black’s Law Dictionary (Revised 4th Edition),” “The sole function of the writ is to release from unlawful imprisonment. ... The office of the writ is not to determine prisoner’s guilt or innocence, and the only issue which it presents is whether the prisoner is retrained of his liberty by due process.”
Mulvaney denied Garey’s two requests, stating that they had already had 30 days to file the petition. Garey argued that the State is required to provide 90 days.
“I don’t believe our request is clearly unreasonable,” he said.
“We’re going to execute this warrant, and he’s going to be returned to Maryland immediately,” stated Mulvaney.
Burton, shackled at his hands and feet, was wearing a white Department of Corrections uniform and had grown a beard since the time of his arrest. In the gallery were eight members of his family. No one from Bennett’s family was present in the courtroom on Monday.
“The Maryland governor has made a request of the Delaware governor to have Mr. Burton taken to Maryland to face these charges,” said defense attorney Flynn Owens. “The Delaware governor has signed off on that. I need to talk again with my colleague, Mr. Garey, to see where we go at this point.”
Following the hearing on Monday, Burton’s attorneys appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court with their writ, and Supreme Court Justice T. Henley Graves ordered that Burton stay in Delaware until a hearing is held on Aug. 16.
Last month, Burton was arrested and charged with the murder of Bennett after DNA evidence linked him to the crime, according to police.
On the night of June 15, Bennett had been working at Bay Shore Babies and SPLASH in Gumboro, Del. She was reported missing by her husband, Kevin, the following morning, when she had not returned home. Her body was discovered by a passerby less than an hour after Kevin Bennett made that call.
Burton, a Tier I registered sex offender, had been working as a contractual custodian at Bay Shore Community Church but had been let go following the church’s discovery of his record. His official last day of employment was June 15.
Police have yet to disclose if Bennett’s murder took place in Delaware or Maryland, but her body was discovered in the Whaleyville, Md., area, leading the murder charges against Burton to be filed in Maryland and necessitating his extradition from Delaware to face those charges.
Burton and his family declined comment following Monday’s hearing.