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Death of Waynesboro woman still under investigation

Saturday, May 31, 2014 7:10 PM
Last updated Sunday, June 1, 2014 2:06 AM
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An investigation into the death of a 77-year-old woman found almost a month after she went missing remains open, Waynesboro Po­lice Chief Augustus Palmer III said.

Arletha Bennett:   77-year-old was found dead after vanishing for close to a month.
Arletha Bennett: 77-year-old was found dead after vanishing for close to a month.

On Friday, the Waynesboro Police Department denied an open records request from The Augusta Chronicle to access case files of the investigation into the death of Arletha Diane Bennett, a retired school teacher who went missing Jan. 16 and was found in the laundry room of a home on Herman Lodge Boulevard about a month later.

Responding via e-mail, Pal­mer said the investigation “isn’t officially closed.” He did not immediately return a call or e-mail seeking further comment Friday.

In the weeks after Ben­nett’s disappearance, police and volunteers from across the Southeast traveled to Waynes­boro to assist in the search, at times using all-terrain vehicles and helicopters.

Authorities received a call Feb. 15 after Bennett was found by Wayne Jenkins and James Sal­is­­bury, who lives at the home. Ben­nett
lived several houses down from where she was discovered.

Two days later, Burke Coun­ty Cor­oner Susan Sale­mi said Ben­nett died of natural causes. The cause of death was listed as senility with Alzheimer’s and probable hypothermia, and Ben­nett might have died not long after she went missing, Salemi said.

No autopsy was performed because the body did not display signs of trauma or foul play, and she was buried at Bark Camp Bap­tist Church Ce­me­tery on Feb. 24.

The Georgia Bureau of In­ves­ti­gation, which assisted Waynes­boro police in the weeks after Bennett’s body was discovered, is no longer involved in the case, Special Agent in Charge Pat Morgan said.

After consulting with Dis­trict Attorney Ashley Wright, Morgan said, the agency decided to leave the investigation in the hands of the Waynesboro police.

Wright declined to comment on the investigation Friday and directed further questions to the Waynes­boro Police Department.

In an e-mail Feb. 19, Pal­mer said the department would continue to work through the information it has gathered through interviews and would brief the public at the end of the investigation.

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Capitalismisgood 05/31/14 - 09:34 pm
In the hands of Lt. Inv. "No

In the hands of Lt. Inv. "No action Jackson!"

mavie325 05/31/14 - 09:58 pm
Whatever happened to her will

Whatever happened to her will be put to rest because nobody knows what really happened. - Connie Sellecca

nocnoc 06/01/14 - 07:25 am
The whole case is werid

From its start, to its handling.

myfather15 06/01/14 - 09:22 am

Alright now, let's be nice!! They're doing the best job they can!!

Sweet son
Sweet son 06/01/14 - 02:37 pm
If the GBI conducted an investigation and washed it's hands

of it then case closed. Appears to be nothing more than a political popularity play by the chief for family members. Blacks often will not accept the findings of law enforcement on death investigations so the chief is dragging it along to appease them.

PrayN4U 06/02/14 - 10:20 am
How can you

How can you live in a house and not smell a decaying body in your laundry room for a month. Rotting flesh has a smell that is unbearable.

jimmymac 06/02/14 - 02:40 pm

I thought the same thing when this story first broke. If you've ever been around something dead for more than a day there's a smell you'll never forget. Something stinks here and it's not the poor woman. I don't blame her family.

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