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Officials identify suspect in shooting death of 4

2:24 PM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
  • Suspect Jacob Allen Bennett (WBIR)
  • Entrance to the Renegade Mountain resort community in Cumberland Co., Tenn. (WBIR)
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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Tenn. (WBIR) -- Officials confirmed Friday afternoon that Jacob Allen Bennett, 26, is the suspect in custody for the shooting death of four people in the Renegade Mountain resort community. 

The victims were found shot to death Thursday in a car on a remote gravel road in the Renegade Mountain community, about 50 miles west of Knoxville.

According to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation release, the driver of the vehicle was Danielle Jacobson, 22. The three teen passengers were Steven Presley, 17, Dominic Davis, 17, and John Lajeunesse, 16. Officials have submitted their bodies for autopsy.

District Attorney General Randy York confirmed to 11Alive's Knoxville sister station WBIR that the four victims were murdered.

The car was found around 7 am by a resident, parked on a gravel road in an undeveloped area off of Cumberland Gardens Road.

Cumberland Co. Chief Investigator Cox said in a press conference Friday afternoon that this is a very traumatic case because of the number and age of the victims. He added he has never witnessed a case like this in his 14 years with the sheriff's office.

"This (homicide case) is very devastating to the victim's families and (Cumberland County) students," said Cox in a press conference Friday afternoon.

Local investigators have asked the TBI to bring in a specialized crime lab to process the scene. These are unique circumstances, because of the number of victims. Gary McKenzie, Cumberland County's Deputy Attorney General, says his office usually prosecutes three to four homicides a year in the county.

Authorities said they are following several leads, and they do not believe the community is in any danger from the shooter or shooters. They said they believe the four people in the car were deliberately targeted and not the victims of random violence.

They also say they have brought in the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole to help find witnesses or suspects they want to speak with.

A TBI spokesperson said in Friday's press conference that they knew Bennett was a suspect very early on in the investigation. According to officials, Bennett has a lengthy criminal history, and Cumberland County Sheriff's Office confirmed Bennett has been in their jail "maybe five times."

TBI wouldn't confirmed whether drugs were involved in the murders.

"In a lot of cases like this, drugs are involved. That's why we are against any drug legalization," a TBI spokesperson said during the news conference.

Authorities said they are not releasing exactly what occurred on Renegade Mountain because they believe it isn't appropriate at this point. TBI, Cumberland County Sheriff's Office and the district attorney said their investigation is continuing, and they're still collecting evidence.

The homeowners association president for the Renegade Mountain community, John Moore, says a resident found the bodies in a blue Dodge early Thursday morning. Moore says the area has had problems in the past with people coming there to make meth, but that it hasn't been bad recently. He said this sort of crime is very much out of the ordinary.

The development is about 3,000 acres with 141 homes, but only 43 of them are occupied by full-time residents.

A message was posted on the Facebook page of Renegade Resort Thursday morning:

"There was a multiple murder with in Renegade Resort earlier this morning. Full time residents passing the area will be stopped and questioned As to who they are and what they are doing here, then allowed to travel on. Anyone with knowledge of a blue car sitting about 100 feet into the Eagle's nest lower entrance is asked to call the Cumberland County Sheriff's office at once. We need to work ever harder to overcome this negative publicity. It is still a great place to live!"

Residents of the surrounding community say they were stunned by the incident.

"I couldn't believe it. Especially since there were kids involved. It shocked me," said Hershel D. Sanders, of Crossville.

"You just never know anymore. The world's getting mean. It has been mean a long time," said Joe Lane of Crab Orchard.

Investigators said they found Bennett in Rhea County Thursday night and arrested him on an unrelated charge. The 26-year-old suspect is in custody at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. A source close to the investigation said they want to move quickly on this case and are considering the possibility of a special called grand jury for charges.

(WBIR Knoxville)

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