Church service remembers murder victim Nicole Bennett

Cause of death has not been released
Nicole Bennett appeared in a video in 2010 to talk about her journey from growing up in a Roman Catholic household to being baptized as an adult at Bay Shore Community Church in Gumboro. SOURCE BAY SHORE COMMUITY CHURCH VIDEO
June 21, 2012

A memorial service was  held June 20 for Nicole Ann Reiser Bennett of Millsboro, whose June 14 death is under investigation as a homicide.

The service took place at Bayshore Community Church in Gumboro. During an earlier Father’s Day message at the church, Danny Tice, lead pastor, spoke about the loss of the 35-year-old mother of three.

In a video of the June 17 service, Tice said, “We’ve had a major thing happen in our church this week, and I feel like the Lord just wants us to talk about that a little bit. A young lady that worked for us was killed by some criminal, and we are very saddened by that."

Bay Shore Community Church has a campus in Gumboro where Bennett worked and worshipped; it also has a campus in Rehoboth Beach. Tice, author of “What Am I Thinking?” leads Bay Shore’s congregation of more than 800 residents from Delaware and Maryland. He and his wife, Karen, are residents of Millsboro.

Tice is the founder of SPLASH Daycare, which serves more than 100 children.

Tice said Bennett worked for the church for a couple months, both as the babies director and at SPLASH, the church-run daycare.

“She was an absolutely wonderful woman, and we are going to miss her very much,” Tice said.

He remembered running into Bennett a few weeks ago and remarked she was very excited about her ministry.

“My heart goes out to Kevin, her husband, and their three girls. We are here to love and support them,” Tice said. “Our whole staff met … we talked and prayed … to support each other. The best of Christian life is when Christians come together in times of sorrow.”

History of a murder

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said June 20 the investigation into Bennett's death is continuing. He confirmed Bennett's car was found at the church. He said autopsy findings have not been released; no cause of death has been reported. Shipley said police have interviewed the man who found Bennett's body, but issued no new information.

It was on a lonely, isolated road near Whaleyville, Md., about  six miles from her church that Bennett's body was found.

Bennett, 35, was last seen at Bay Shore. Her body was discovered on the side of Swamp Road in rural Worcester County, Md., June 15.

As of June 21, no cause of death has been released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore where Bennett's body was sent for autopsy.

A resident of Peninsula at Long Neck, a gated community east of Millsboro, Bennett was married to Kevin Bennett.

Maryland State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo said  Bennett made a phone call to a family member at 7:40 p.m., June 14. Her husband reported her missing at 8 a.m., June 15, after she did not return home from work at Bay Shore the previous night.

An hour after his missing-person report, about 9 a.m., Nicole Bennett's body was discovered by a man walking in the area.

Police are interviewing suspects, and they continue to search for anyone who may have seen something suspicious along Swamp Road June 14-15. Police are not discounting Bennett disappearing from home, work or anywhere in between, Russo said.

At Bay Shore church,  the mood was somber four days after Bennett’s body was found.

Assistant to the pastor Cathy Hudson said during an administration meeting, church officials agreed to state only that the church is working with both Maryland and Delaware police.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Hudson said.

Police search for witnesses

A monetary reward is being offered to anyone with information leading to an arrest. To report any information, call the Worcester County Lower Eastern Shore Crime Solvers at 410-548-1776. Calls are confidential.

A trust fund has been set up for Nicole's husband and their three girls. Make checks payable to Nicole Reiser Bennett Memorial Fund and mail to WSFS Bank, Nicole Reiser Bennett Memorial Fund, 2664 Center View Drive, Millsboro, DE 19966.

Deputies from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, and investigators from the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation, Delaware State Police and the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit responded to the scene. Crime scene technicians from the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division responded to gather evidence. The Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Wicomico County Bureau of Investigation, and the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation have also been assisting with the investigation.

The video of Tice speaking about Bennett appears online and is linked through Tice’s Twitterfeed.