Judge Keith Bowers Jr. appointed the Public Defender's Office to defend Benfield. Assistant Public Defender Jim Lonon told Bowers that he did not know any conflict the public defender's office had in taking the case.
Lonon asked for a delay until the autopsy report on Mary Nolen was completed. He said those reports usually take 30 to 45 days. Bowers set Benfield's next appearance on the felony murder charge for Sept. 26.
Nolen was found unconscious by family members in her residence on July 14, suffering from bruises to her mouth, neck and other injuries that led her family to believe she had been beaten. Nolen was rushed to Johnson City Medical Center and died there on July 26.
Following an investigation by the Carter County Sheriff's Department in which 20 persons of interest were interrogated, Benfield was arrested on Friday 11 on the felony murder charge and on a charge of especially aggravated burglary. He had already been arrested earlier on the charge of being a fugitive from justice in South Carolina on an accusation he had violated his parole after being released from a South Carolina prison in December. He had served 16 years on four counts of residential burglary and moved to Carter County after his release from the South Carolina prison.
Several members of Nolen's family attended Tuesday's proceedings.
The question of bond for Benfield was held in abeyance. Benfield's bond is the murder and burglary charges is set at $500,000. His bond on a fugitive from justice charge is $25,000. Lonon told Bowers that since his client qualified for a public defender, he did not think Benfield would be able to post bond.
Benfield was also arraigned on the fugitive from justice charge. That case was continued to Aug. 21. His bond remained $25,000.
Judge Keith Bowers Jr. presided over Tuesday's special court day. His court had originally been scheduled to be out of session for the entire week so the judge could attend a judicial conference. When he learned of Benfield's arrest, Bowers scheduled the extra session.