|Former school nurse admits to helping friend find a hit man |
Cathy Warren Bennett
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
By KEN BRADLEY - Staff Writer
The Rocky Mount woman charged with conspiracy in a murder-for-hire plot to kill her friend's ex-husband pleaded guilty Tuesday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Cathy Warren Bennett, 38, who had remained free on $75,000 bond, was sent to jail by Circuit Court Judge W.N. Alexander II after the plea hearing.
Bennett will remain in jail until her sentencing hearing on Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. Bennett faces up to 10 years in prison.
Bennett is charged with conspiracy to solicit murder for helping Angela Robin Nolen find a hit man to kill Nolen's ex-husband, Paul "Jay" Strickler, in February.
Nolen, 47, was a kindergarten teacher at Sontag Elementary School, and Bennett was a nurse at the school when Bennett approached another co-worker to inquire about finding someone to kill Strickler, according to Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Allen.
Nolen pleaded guilty in June to one count of solicitation to commit murder for meeting with an undercover state police agent and paying him $4,000 to kill Strickler.
Nolen faces a minimum of five years in prison to a maximum of 40 years. Her sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 20 at 10 a.m. in circuit court.
During a summary of the evidence against Bennett Tuesday, Allen said the coworker at the school was provided with information by Bennett on Feb. 11 that Nolen was searching for someone to kill her ex-husband. The coworker contacted the police and was provided with a telephone number to give to Nolen, Allen said. Nolen was told to ask for "Greg."
On Feb. 18, an undercover sergeant with the Virginia State Police received a call from Nolen at 4:20 p.m., Allen said. They agreed to meet at 4 p.m. the next day in Lowe's parking lot in Rocky Mount.
Surveillance had been set up in the undercover agent's car and in the parking lot to record the meeting, Allen said. When Nolen arrived, she got into the front seat of Blankenship's car and said she wanted Strickler "eliminated from this earth" several times.
The two negotiated a price of $8,000 for the hit, Allen said, and Nolen went to her bank to withdraw $4,000. She returned to the parking lot at 4:38 p.m. and gave the cash to Blankenship.
The next morning, state police agents questioned Nolen, and, at first, she denied any involvement in the murder-for-hire plot, Allen said. However, she eventually confessed and demonstrated remorse, he added.
Although the prosecution has not released information as to motive in the case, court records show that Nolen was granted a protective order for family abuse on behalf of herself and the couple's adopted 7-year-old daughter against Strickler shortly before the couple divorced in December 2012.
The protective order, issued by Franklin County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in October 2012, prohibited Strickler from having any contact with Nolen and limited his contact with their daughter to three 5-minute phone calls per week, according to the document.
A judge granted the protective order after Nolen had "proven the allegation of family abuse by a preponderance of evidence," the order states.
The protective order remains in effect until October 2014.
Nolen was granted sole custody of their daughter, who is currently living with Nolen's mother in Rocky Mount.