LEAVENWORTH COUNTY, Kan. -- A jury returned a not guilty verdict on Wednesday against a man accused of trying to stab his pregnant ex-girlfriend to death. He was accused of the crime that happened at a convenience store last June.
Leavenworth County prosecutors said Lachelle Kemp, seven months pregnant at the time, was nearly stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend Richard Bennett. But the defense said he was trying to protect himself.
"Mr. Bennett has maintained from day one that he was acting in self-defense," said Defense Attorney Clinton Lee.
Kemp survived the assault and in September gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Bennett, the child's father, was in jail awaiting trial. Then in a moment of tragedy in October, Kemp was electrocuted after crashing into a utility pole. Her two children survived the accident.
"It's just a sad occasion for anyone to pass away, especially someone the way Ms. Kemp passed away," Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said.
As the victim of the stabbing, Kemp's testimony could have been key in the attempted murder trial against Bennett.
"There's probably always a benefit to be able to having a witness testify, for both sides, the defense and the prosecution so the jury can hear how the person reacts to questions. How they answer, their body language," Thompson said.
Despite her death, Bennett's case went to trial Monday. Where Kemp would have taken the stand -- a court recorder read her previous testimony.
Bennett's defense attorney, Clinton Lee said, "It's difficult to determine what if any impact that might have had on their decision."
The jury still heard from Bennett himself and other witnesses. After five hours of deliberations, the jury found Bennett not guilty of the attempted murder of Kemp and his unborn child. The jury did find Bennett guilty of a criminal threat and aggravated battery.
"I would really hate to speculate whether if she was alive or not would weigh into the different into how the jury would have viewed the evidence," said Thompson.
Bennett has been in jail since the June assault. Because of Bennett's lack of violent criminal history, the 26-year-old may only be facing probation at his sentencing hearing in December.