Jacob Allen Bennett spent most of his life in custody, beginning with run-ins with the law as a juvenile. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Bennett pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree felony murder, and received four life without parole sentences to be served, on paper, consecutively. This assures that Bennett will never see freedom again.
Bennett also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated robbery and received two ten-year prison sentences to be served concurrently, or at the same time.
Bennett, 28, of Woodbridge Rd., and Brittany Lina Yvonne Moser, 27, of Dayton, TN, were indicted in the September 2013 shooting deaths of Rikki Danielle Jacobson, 22; Domonic Davis, 17; Steven Presley, 17; and Jonathan Raymond Lajeunesse, 16.
The incident took place in September 2013 on a side road leading to an undeveloped cul-de-sac on Renegade Mountain, east of Crab Orchard. The victims were found shot to death inside a vehicle owned by Jacobson. All had been shot multiple times and the young victims were from Cumberland County.
Bennett was facing four counts of premeditated murder, four counts of felony murder and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery. Moser faces four counts of felony murder and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery.
Bennett was represented at the hearing by court-appointed Shelbyville attorney Robert Marlow and James S. Simmons of Hendersonville.
“This has been a difficult case for everyone,” District Attorney Bryant Dunaway said after the hearing. “We can not undo what happened on that mountain that night and nothing can bring those your lives back. We have met with the families on numerous occasions and the majority of the family members of the victims are in agreement with this resolution.
“It is my prayer that the healing process for those who lost their loved ones can begin.”
After the hearing, Criminal Court Judge David Patterson also took time to directly address members of the families, and their friends, who filled one side of the courtroom.
“I am very much saddened for you and I hope there is some comfort in the future,” Patterson said. “This is a very good decision.”
He explained that to seek the death penalty — and if the state was successful in getting a death sentence at trial — it would be an estimated 18-20 years of court hearings and appeal hearings that would bring more reliving of the tragic event.
“This does not bring anyone back … but at least you know you will not have to go through the appeal process,” the judge said.
Bryant met privately with the families and friends before the hearing started and again at its conclusion.
The hearing was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. but did not get underway until after 2 p.m. Bennett, with shackles on his feet and hands, shuffled into the courtroom in a white state-issued jump suit with TDOC (Tennessee Department of Corrections) Maximum Security stenciled across the back.
Bennett’s head was shaven and he wore a medium-length beard. He had little to say during the hearing other than to quietly respond to questions from Patterson about his understanding of his rights. Patterson told Bennett that to enter the guilty pleas would bring an end to any right of his to appeal and that this would be his last day in court.
Bennett said he understood.
District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway read a statement of facts supporting the guilty plea and that would have resulted in a jury conviction if the case had gone to trial (see accompanying story). After Bryant read that statement into the record, and Patterson was satisfied that Bennett understood his rights, the judge accepted Bennett’s guilty plea.
Once the guilty plea was entered, six persons representing families of the four victims read or spoke from memory victim impact statements.
These statements were delivered by family members Jennifer Cantrell, Julie Lajeunesse, D. Cole, Rebecca Ball, Derrick Brown and Steven Kilgore.
Standing a mere eight feet away from where Bennett sat, the six tearfully read their statements. Many addressed their remarks directly to Bennett, instructing him to look at them as they spoke.
They lashed out in hurt that had been building in a pressure cooker of anger for nearly three years. They sparred no words, looking directly at Bennett as they used derogatory adjectives to express their contempt for him and his actions.
They talked about their losses of not being able to watch the young victims — three teenagers — grow up, have families, contribute to their joy and fulfill their lives. Mostly, they talked about lost opportunities of enjoying the victims’ lives.
“Your actions put an incredible amount of pain to a lot of people,” Rikki’s sister, Cantrell, said as she coldly stared at the defendant. “You are a nobody.” She added that she believed Bennett would languish in a jail cell the rest of his life “with not a person to care for you.”
It was extremely emotional for Julie Lajeunesse to address Bennett and the court. Her son was the youngest of the four who were murdered. “You are so cold-hearted and cruel to do to, not only my son, but three others, what you did.”
She had raised her son, Jonathan, as a single-parent, recalling the night she drove him to one of his friend’s home and him saying to her as he closed the car door, “Bye Mom. I love you.” She had no idea it would be the last time she would see her son.
Later she issued a statement to the Knoxville media expressing hope that the guilty plea would now allow her the opportunity to begin the healing process.
“Look at me,” Cole demanded of Bennett as she spoke from her heart. She asked how he could accept anything “but the death you generously gave out to them.” She talked about the good of her nephew, Steven Presley.
“I honestly believe if he were here he would forgive you,” Cole said. She told Bennett he needed to spend his time in prison seeking God because when he stands before God on judgment day, “There won’t be a plea agreement.”
Ball not only lost a sister, but a nephew in Domonic Davis. She told Bennett she hoped he was tormented in jail with thoughts of the decision he made.
Brown called Bennett “a bottom feeder in the bottom of the barrel,’ stating, “Most of us in here would do away with you, but we have to abide by the legal system.” He added that one day Bennett would receive the judgment he said Bennett deserves.
Kilgore, Domonic Davis’ brother, was the last to speak. He told Bennett the killing of his sibling and the others left a lot of families broken. “I hope the fear they had before they died haunts you … “
Perhaps the biggest hurt for the families is knowing that the ending of the criminal process for Bennett really does nothing to fill the voids in their hearts. The case against Bennett may be over, but the families will also serve a sentence of their own — suffering the loss of loved ones in such a manner.
The case against Moser is pending. Moser is represented by court-appointed Crossville attorney Kevin Bryant and that case is scheduled to return to Criminal Court on Aug. 10.
Statement of facts in the Renegade murder case
The following is a statement of facts prepared by District Attorney Bryant Dunaway and defense attorney Robert Marlow that was read into the record, supporting Jacob Bennett’s guilty plea to four counts of felony first-degree murder and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery.
Had this case proceeded to trial, the State of Tennessee would have presented witnesses and evidence that would prove the following facts:
1). On the morning of September 12, 2013, David Schlabach, while on his way to work, discovered the deceased bodies of Rikki Danielle Jacobson, Domonic Lewis Davis, Steven Michael Presley, and Jon Lajuenesse, in a parked car on Eagles Nest Road on Renegade Mountain located in Cumberland County, Tennessee. Law Enforcement and EMS personnel responded to the scene that morning and found that the four victims had been shot.
- 2). Investigators learned that on the night of Sept. 11, 2013, Steven Presley told his mother that he was going to meet someone named “Jake” on Renegade Mountain. Law enforcement personnel conducted further interviews and researched mobile telephone records. Based upon their investigation, they learned that Jacob Bennett had been living with his grandparents in their residence on Renegade Mountain. Jacob Bennett’s grandmother stated to investigators that Bennett had recently moved out of her residence and was living in Dayton, TN. Law enforcement investigators identified the Jacob Allen Bennett (DOB 6-16-1987) as a suspect in these murders.
3). Investigators were told that the Sept. 11, 2013 meeting on Renegade Mountain was arranged for Jacobsen and Davis to sell “Jake” some marijuana.
4). Brittany Moser was interviewed on Sept. 12, 2013. She admitted that she had driven to Renegade Mountain with Jacob Bennett; Brittany identified Jacob Allen Bennett as the individual who shot and killed the four victims on Renegade Mountain. In addition to other information, Brittany Moser told investigators that she saw Jacob Bennett throw latex gloves in a trash can at a Kangaroo Mart in Dayton, TN. Those gloves were recovered in the trash can at the location described by Brittany Moser.
5). On Sept. 13, 2013, Jacob Bennett was arrested on a warrant for violation of parole.
6). On Sept. 16, 2013, Jacob Bennett was interviewed at the Cumberland County Justice Center. Jacob Bennett was advised of his Miranda Rights prior to questioning. Jacob Bennett acknowledged that he understood those rights. He then voluntarily waived his rights and consented to be interviewed by law enforcement investigators.
7). During the interview, Jacob Bennett admitted that he went to Renegade Mountain with the intention to rob the four victims.
8). Jacob Bennett admitted to investigators that he told the four victims where to meet him.
9). Jacob Bennett and Brittany Moser traveled together to the location on Renegade Mountain; they were the first to arrive. The four victims, Rikki, Domonic, Jon and Steven arrived later. Jacob Bennett got out of his vehicle. He already had a gun out.
10). Jacob Bennett talked to Dominic and asked him to get out of the car. Dominic would not get out. By his own admission, Jacob Bennett had the intention to hurt Dominic. Jacob Bennett then shot Rikki Jacobson, Domonic Davis, Jon Lajuenesse and Steven Presley multiple times while all four of them sat in their vehicle.
11). The State Medical Examiner would testify that the manner of death for all four victims is homicide and that cause of death is gunshot wounds.
12). On Sept. 20, 2013, the Grand Jury for Cumberland County returned a true bill of indictment against Jacob Bennett charging him with four counts of pre-meditated murder, four counts of felony murder and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery.
13). Jacob Bennett appeared for an Arraignment on Sept. 30, 2013. He was asked if he wanted to speak with an attorney or have an attorney appointed to him. Jacob Bennett replied, “There is no need. I did it.” Jacob Bennett stated that he planned to “plead guilty.”
- 14). Jacob Bennett committed “mass murder” which is defined by statute as the murder of three (3) or more persons, whether committed during a single criminal episode or at different times within a 48 month period. (TCA 39-13-204(i)(12).
15). Finally, On Oct. 3, 2013, the State had timely filed with the clerk and served on defendant’s counsel, a notice of intent to seek enhanced punishment and notice of enhancing factors.