Attorneys dismissed, plea quashed in Bennett murder case

Becky Campbell • May 13, 2014 at 9:54 AM

A judge awarded an accused murderer a new attorney this morning after his previous lawyers asked off the case, upending an expected plea in the case.

Steven Odell Bennett had been prepared to enter a plea in his first-degree murder case, but his public defenders, Bill Francisco and Melanie Sellers, asked Judge Stacy Street to release them from Bennett's case citing a conflict with another client.

Street granted the request and appointed attorney David Robbins to represent Bennett. The judge also set a new plea deadline for Aug. 11 and a trial for Oct. 6-8.

Bennett also was arraigned on a new charge from the murder case — tampering with evidence. He was already charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse for the October 2012 strangulation death of 28-year-old Vonda Donaldson.

The homicide happened in Johnson City, but police investigators and prosecutors said Bennett drove Donaldson’s body to the Butler Bridge in Carter County and dumped her into Watauga Lake.

Keep visiting JohnsonCityPress.com for updates and read Wednesday's print edition for the full story.

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