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Homicide trial scheduled for Superior man accused of stabbing mother

Robert Lee Bennett III was found competent to proceed with the case.

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Robert Lee Bennett III, left, is escorted to the courtroom for a preliminary hearing in Superior on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A December trial date has been set for a Superior man accused of fatally stabbing his mother.

Robert Lee Bennett III, 41, faces one count of first-degree intentional homicide. At a May 23 competency hearing in Douglas County Circuit Court, his trial was set for Dec. 5-9, with a pretrial conference Nov. 11.

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Robert Lee Bennett III

Bennett's attorney Ellen Craker told the court Oct. 20 that he intended to enter a not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect plea. Judge Kelly Thimm ordered a competency evaluation for Bennett Dec. 10. At the May hearing, Bennett claimed to be competent and was found competent to proceed. He did not change his plea.

According to Douglas County District Attorney Mark Fruehauf, the two issues sometimes overlap, but are different. The question of competency focuses on whether right now, at this second, the person lacks the mental capacity to understand the proceedings or assist in their defense.

The not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect plea centers on whether, at the time of the crime, the person had a mental disease or defect that caused them to lack the ability to appreciate wrongfulness of their conduct or conform to the requirements of law. The burden of proof for such a plea rests with the defense, Fruehauf said.

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“At this point, we are preparing for the matter to proceed to trial as scheduled,” he said.

Bennett remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail on a $1 million cash bond.

Superior police were called to 49 Norwood Ave. at 6:55 a.m. Sept. 29, 2020, for a report of a stabbing. The victim, identified by police as Cindy Bennett, was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy indicated she suffered stab wounds to her arm, back, neck, face and head from a knife and a metal cooking probe.

When questioned after the incident by Superior Police Detective Sean Holmgren, Bennett admitted to stabbing his mother, the criminal complaint said. He told police his mother had been acting “un-normal” and wanted to take him to the hospital, which he did not like. He reportedly told Holmgren that he threw his mother to the ground after she pointed a needle at him.

If convicted, the Superior man could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

MORE CRIME AND COURTS COVERAGE:
As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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