Former Paint Rock ISD Board of Trustees vice president, Daniel Wayne Bennett, sentenced to 45 years

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register
Former Paint Rock ISD board member Daniel Wayne Bennett was convicted on 3 sex crimes: Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child (1st degree felony; punishment range of 25-99 years or Life); Counts Two and Three:  Sexual Assault of a Child (2nd degree felonies; punishment range of 2-20 years, and an optional fine of $10,000). 
Bennett was sentenced to a total of 65 years in prison.

Former Paint Rock ISD Board of Trustees vice president, Daniel Wayne Bennett, sentenced to 45 years in prison. Bennett was given 45 years confinement in the penitentiary for Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child, and 10 years confinement for each of the two sexual assault of a child charges. The charges will run concurrently so the total is 45 years.

Bennett was prosecuted for 3 sex crimes involving children and faced a total of 139 years in prison: Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child (1st degree felony; punishment range of 25-99 years or Life); Counts Two and Three: Sexual Assault of a Child (2nd degree felonies; punishment range of 2-20 years, and an optional fine of $10,000).

Judge Mike Freeman handed down the sentencing on Monday, May 3, 2021.

Allegations and investigation

Bennett served as the vice president of the Paint Rock ISD board of Trustees at the time was arrested Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.

In June 2016, a then-recent graduate of Paint Rock High School reported to the Concho County Sheriff’s Office that she had been sexually assaulted by Bennett since she was eleven years old, according to a news release.

"The sexual assaults began in Paint Rock the summer before she entered Junior High, and continued until she turned seventeen," the release stated.

A second victim said Bennett sexually assaulted her twice when she was nine years old, a news release stated.

According to an article in the San Angelo Standard Times, "Due to the nature of the offense, the Texas Rangers were asked to assist in the investigation. After obtaining a search warrant for Bennett’s cell phone records, authorities found 6 years worth of text messages between the victim and Bennett consistent with the victim’s account of how she had been sexually assaulted, a release stated."

During their investigation, authorities identified and located another of Bennett's victims.

According to the indictment released by the Concho County District Clerk’s office at the time of Bennett's, he was alleged to have committed the offenses from Aug. 1, 2009 to Oct. 27, 2011, when the victim was 14 years old or younger. The two other counts of sexual assault of a child, were alleged in the indictment to have occurred on May 29, 2013 and July 15, 2013 respectively.

Paint Rock ISD informed in 2018

At the time of Bennett's arrest, the Paint Rock ISD Board of Trustees issued a press release stating that the charges against Bennett stemmed from a 2016 Investigation and that the alleged local female victim involved was 19 years old at the time.

The release defended Bennett, stating that the victim was, "was 19 and had already graduated high school." The release goes on to state that Bennett had "employed members of the alleged victim’s family before their employment was terminated."

“On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, school administrators were informed by law enforcement that one of the members of the Paint Rock Independent School Board of Trustees, Daniel Bennett, had been indicted and arrested on a 2016 accusation. At the time of the accusation, the alleged local female victim was 19 and had already graduated high school.

The 2016 allegation was investigated at the time by the Concho County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, CPS, and the Texas Rangers. The accusation did not involve any events that alleged to have taken place on the school grounds or at school events. The accusations did not relate to any actions related to his role as a school board trustee. Being a local contractor, Mr. Bennett has employed a number of local people that worked for him. It is in that role, he formerly employed members of the alleged victim’s family before their employment was terminated.

Mr. Bennett has served continually on the PRISD School Board of Trustees since 2006. He also serves on the Concho County Appraisal District’s Board of Trustees where he served for several years.

“Members of the PRISD School Board of Trustees are elected to the board by local voters and generally serve three year terms. Mr. Bennett was last re-elected to his position in May of 2017. He currently serves as the vice president of the board. Bennet said he will voluntarily not be attending the board of trustee meetings until his names is cleared from the accusation. He will also not be on campus until this matter is resolved.

“Paint Rock ISD looks forward to the resolution of this matter and will be glad to assist the legal authorities any way we can. As always, the safety of our students remains our greatest concern and our greatest commitment."

According to the Standard Times article, In February 2018, a petition letter submitted during a Paint Rock school board meeting requested Bennett's immediate resignation.

The letter was written by a retired teacher, principal and resident of Concho County, and backed by the signatures of almost three dozen other Concho County residents.

Bennett refused to resign from the board."

District Attorney issues press release regarding Bennett's conviction

District Attorney John Best prosecuted the case and issued a statement:

"I want to thank both victims for having the courage to come forward and the strength to see this case to conclusion. I also want to thank the Concho County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers for investigating the allegations brought by the first victim, and for helping to locate the second victim. Finally, I want to thank the members of the Tom Green County Jury for their careful consideration of the sometimes difficult-to-hear testimony associated with this case, and for assessing a significant sentence for the defendant’s conduct."

Bennett resigns after conviction

In early 2020, Bennett was among five candidates running for trustee positions on the Paint Rock ISD school board. The three individuals with the most votes in May 2020 were elected to serve three year terms (2020-23), according to a district news release.

On Tuesday, May 4, an attorney for Paint Rock ISD forwarded a copy of Bennett's resignation letter to the Standard-Times.

Bennett resigned from both the school board and the Concho County Appraisal District on the same day a jury sentenced him to prison, writing:

"I, Daniel Wayne Bennett, due to my inability to serve, hereby resign my position on the Paint Rock ISD school board, as well as my position with the Concho County Appraisal District, immediately on May 3, 2021."

Officials with Paint Rock ISD had removed Bennett's name from their official website by noon Tuesday. It wasn't immediately clear how soon his position would be replaced.

State of Texas vs. Daniel Wayne Bennett

DATE: May 3, 2021

DEFENDANT: Daniel Wayne Bennett; dob: 12/28/1975CAUSE NO.: DIS-18-01982

INDICTED CHARGES: Count One: Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child (1st degree felony; punishment range of 25-99 years or Life); Counts Two and Three: Sexual Assault of a Child (2nd degree felonies; punishment range of 2-20 years, and an optional fine of $10,000).

JUDGE: The Honorable Mike Freeman

PROSECUTOR(s): John Best, 119th District Attorney; Stuart Holden, 1st Asst. Dist. Atty.DEFENSE ATTORNEY: David Guinn, Lane Haygood (Lubbock)

TRIAL DATES: April 26, 2021 – May 3, 2021

CIRCUMSTANCES OF OFFENSE: In June 2016, a then-recent graduate of Paint Rock High School reported to the Concho County Sheriff’s Office that she had been sexually assaulted by Daniel Wayne Bennett since she was eleven. According to the victim, the sexual assaults began in Paint Rock the summer before she entered Junior High, and continued until she turned seventeen.

Due to the nature of the offense, the Texas Rangers were asked to assist in the investigation. After obtaining a search warrant for Bennett’s cell phone records, law enforcement located six years’ worth of text messages between the victim and Bennett consistent with the victim’s account of how she had been sexually assaulted. Additionally, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement identified and located another victim of Bennett.

According to the second victim, Bennett had sexually assaulted her twice when she was nine years old. In January 2018, Bennett was indicted by a Concho County Grand Jury for the offenses of Continuous Sexual Assault of a Young Child and two counts of Sexual Assault of a Child for his conduct associated with the first victim. Prior to trial, the State sought and was granted a transfer of venue from Concho to Tom Green County.

TRIAL OUTCOME:

Judge Mike Freeman presided over the jury trial. A Tom Green County Jury found the defendant guilty of all three charges, and sentenced him to 45 years confinement in the penitentiary for Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child, and 10 years confinement for each of the two sexual assault of a child charges.