A car containing the bodies was discovered by a resident of the community about 50 miles west of Knoxville on Thursday morning. The victims were identified as driver Danielle Jacobson, 22, and passengers Steven Presley, 17, Dominic Davis, 17, and John Lajeunesse, 16.
Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie said the suspect and the victims knew each other “to some degree,” but declined elaborate on a possible motive or any other details.
Jacob Allen Bennett, 26, was arrested late Thursday in Rhea County on a parole violation.
The discovery of the murders shocked the rural community. “This has really affected a lot of the high-school-age kids,” Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess said. “This is something that is very traumatic.”
“We believe that we have the person that committed these crimes in custody, that this community is safe,” Mark Gwyn, director of the TBI, said at a news conference in Cookeville.
Gwyn said Bennett was identified as a suspect “pretty quickly,” but that it took the rest of the day to locate and arrest him in neighboring Rhea County.
The Associated Press reported that Bennett is being held in the Cumberland County Jail while preparations are being made to call a special grand jury to hear the evidence.
Some early press reports of Bennett’s arrest erroneously gave Carter County as his residence.
Kristen Helm, TBI public information officer, said there had been some early confusion about where Bennett lived. She said there may have been some information released in a news conference that gave a Carter County address for him. Helm said the TBI’s latest address for him was Crab Orchard in Cumberland County in 2012.
Bennett has a clean record in Carter County except for one arrest by the Elizabethton Police Department in March 2009, when he was picked up on a Cumberland County warrant charging him with theft over $1,000. At the time of his arrest, the police department listed his address as 658 Jena Beth Drive, Apt. 2, in Elizabethton.
The arresting officer in 2009 said he was found with a 2003 Jeep Wrangler owned by a man who lived on Renegade Mountain Parkway in Crab Orchard. Four years later, Renegade Mountain is where the murders were discovered.
Bennett was sentenced to two years in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty in Fentress County to theft-related charges and of being a convicted violent felon in possession of a firearm, according to court records. The state of Tennessee’s felony offender website lists him as being on parole through Jan. 17, 2015.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Bennett had been released March 4 from the Hardeman County Correctional Facility. He had been sentenced in 2010 to six years’ imprisonment on charges of forgery, attempted theft of property, possession of a handgun during a felony and theft of property.