A Las Vegas man was sentenced on Thursday to 50 years to life in prison for brutally abusing his two eldest daughters and beating his 3-Year-old to death.
Justin Bennett, 26, of Henderson, in January pleaded guilty to murder and 31 counts of child abuse in the 2016 killing of his middle child, Abygaile Bennett.
According to court documents, the toddler was hit in the chest with such force that her heart burst. Her laundry-list of injuries also included a broken back and three fractured ribs.
Prosecutors said Bennett, pictured in this undated photo with his wife, Korie Morimoto, and their three young daughters, tortured their two eldest girls for 18 months
In exchange for Bennett’s plea, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty against him, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He will be in his 70s when he becomes eligible for parole.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told 8 News Now last month that his office accepted the plea deal after Bennett’s defense team presented credible information that he suffers from mental illness.
According to Dailymail ,On the morning of July 1, 2016, police and paramedics were called to the home of Bennett and his wife, Korie Morimoto, in the 2400 block of Tilden Way in Henderson, where three-year-old Abygaile was found unconscious.
The toddler was rushed to St Rose Dominican Hospitals, where she was pronounced dead.
An autopsy later revealed that Abygaile died of blunt-force trauma to the chest that tore the right atrium of her heart, and that she had a host of other injuries indicating chronic physical abuse, including a bruised lung.
Abygaile’s father was arrested and charged with her murder and the protracted abuse of the girl and her older sister, then aged four.
An indictment stated Bennett (center) would punch Abygaile and her 4-year-old sister, throw them against the wall, force feed them mustard and cover their mouths and noses
An indictment filed in the case has laid out in graphic detail 18 months of torture Bennett had inflicted upon his two eldest daughters. his youngest child, aged two at the time, was apparently spared.
According to the document, Bennett would kick and punch the two girls, throw them against the wall, force-feed them mustard and cover their mouths and noses as punishment for lying.
Abygaile was killed in July 2016 with a punch to the chest that ruptured the right atrium of her heart. Her autopsy showed the child also had a broken back and ribs
Bennett would also make Abygaile and her older sister stand against the walls, and if they fell down or cried from exhaustion, he would beat them.
He would also force feed them white habanero peppers.
‘These were so hot it would cause the children to foam at the mouth,’ the prosecutor said. “
‘Their eyes would be bleeding with tears, and he would cover their mouths until they would swallow.’
On one occasion, according to the indictment, Bennett cut open a wound on the head of one of the girls that had not healed.
A prosecutor stated that in the days leading up to her beating death, little Abygaile had her back broken and suffered three broken ribs.
During his initial interview with police, Justin Bennett said on the morning of Abygaile’s death, he went into the bedroom to check on her and her sisters as they slept and found a blanket wrapped around the child’s neck, reported the station KTNV.
Unable to wake her up, Bennett said he tried splashing water on the toddler’s face, then carried her downstairs and proceeded to perform CPR before calling for help.
When asked about his approach to discipline, Bennett said the ‘punishment fits the crime,’ according to an arrest report.
Korie Morimoto, Bennett’s wife (left), has been charged with child abuse and allowing child abuse or neglect with substantial bodily harm
After initially denying that he spanked his children, the father-of-three later admitted to using a wooden spoon to strike their bare buttocks.
Speaking to police on the evening of Abygaile’s slaying, the dad said the toddler came into his room that morning screaming and crying. About 10 minutes into her tantrum, he said he got angry, took the girl into the bedroom and put his hand on her mouth to stop her screaming.
When asked by detectives if he thought that is what a good father would do, Bennett reportedly replied that he is not a good father.
At the time of Abygaile’s death, her mother, Korie Morimoto, was in Texas taking part in a US Air Force training program. She was later charged with child abuse and allowing child abuse or neglect with substantial bodily harm. Her case is still pending.
Morimoto and Bennett had been investigated by Child Protective Services in early 2016 after the parents accused each other of punishing their daughters too harshly.
In the end, investigators from a third-party company contracted by the county agency to review ‘low-priority’ cases concluded the couple’s three children were not in any danger and recommended that Bennett and Morimoto enroll in a parenting class.
In 2019, Clark County awarded a $100,000 settlement to Abygaile’s maternal grandmother, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit.