A Texas County jury found a Cabool man not guilty Friday of statutory rape after a nearly two-day trial.
Danney L. Benefiel, 65, was charged with the offense in 2005 and had signed a statement admitting having sexual intercourse with his fiancée’s 13-year-old mentally retarded daughter, said John Beger, his Rolla attorney.
The defendant’s evidence included testimony that both the victim, and her little sister, who had testified she saw the victim in the Benefiel’s bedroom at a time when his pants were unzipped, had recanted their stories. Beger said the defendant also testified he only signed the confession, which had been written by a Missouri Division of Family Support worker, because the agency threatened to take the children from their mother, his fiancée.
In a closing statement, Beger emphasized that neither DFS nor the Texas County Sheriff’s Department had videotaped or audiotaped the signed statement or a previous interrogation that occurred five days before – where he had denied any wrongdoing.
“We argued that on a case of this magnitude, where the defendant faces life in prison, the authorities should videotape, or at least audiotape, any interrogation,” Beger said. “We thought it was suspicious he would talk to the authorities one day and deny everything, then a few days later sign a statement of admission.”
Beger said state witnesses could not explain what they had said to Benefiel to get him to admit.
“We are happy the defendant has been found not guilty but it will not erase the years of turmoil he and his fiancée, now wife, have been through nor put this family back together,” Beger said.