Bay Shore Community Church in Gumboro employed homicide victim Nicole Bennett for several months as director of its babies daycare program.
Bennett's body was discovered June 15 along a rural road just over the Delaware state line in Whaleyville, Md. Maryland State Police are investigating the murder, but no arrests have been made.
Information released by Delaware State Police in an unrelated matter shows the church employed Matthew N. Burton, 28, of Georgetown, a Tier-1 registered sex offender convicted of endangering the welfare of a child.
Delaware State Police spokesman Paul Shavack said as part of the murder investigation, Maryland police interviewed a number of church employees, including Burton.
Shavack said unrelated to the murder investigation, a church administrator notified police that Burton had been released from employment June 16. When Burton failed to register his change in employment, Delaware State Police Sex Offender Unit arrested him June 22. He was released on $5,000 secured bond June 23, according to Justice of the Peace Court 3 in Georgetown. The case has been transferred to the Court of Common Pleas. Shavack said Burton's June 22 arrest was unrelated to the homicide. However, anyone convicted of sexually based crimes is monitored closely by law enforcement agencies.
Cathy Hudson, assistant to the pastor at Bay Shore, said the church does not release information on employees or subcontractors, although she confirmed Burton was released from employment. The church has released a statement on Burton's employment, published below. Bay Shore Community Church attorney Jeff Badger of Long, Badger, Sheller and Smith said he had no comment on the investigation.
Matthew Burton could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, said she was contacted by Bonnie Burton, mother of Matthew Burton, who asked for help to have her son's record expunged regarding his conviction for endangering the welfare of a child. King said she has known Bonnie Burton for several years, and that after researching the issue, she found Matthew Burton's record could not be expunged until 2014.
Matthew Burton's wife declined to comment on her husband's recent arrest or his questioning in the Bennett case. She said attorney John Garey of Dover is the couple's lawyer.
Garey could not be reached for comment.
Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said there is nothing new to report on the case as of June 27.
Bay Shore Community Church has issued the following statement:
"We have been informed that Matthew Burton was recently arrested for a matter unrelated to the death of Nicole Bennett. Mr. Burton formerly worked at Bay Shore Community Church as a part-time independent contractor. He is no longer affiliated with Bay Shore. So that we avoid any possibility that any further comment could impact the ongoing investigation, Bay Shore will make no further public statements regarding this personnel matter at this time.
"Our hearts continue to grieve for Nicole’s family and everyone who was affected by this tragedy. If you would like to support this family we would encourage you to make checks payable to the Nicole Reiser Bennett Memorial Fund administered by WSFS Bank (Millsboro Branch), 2664 Center View Drive, Millsboro, DE 19966."