Thursday, September 11, 2008

Child care worker arrested

CFS director says drug charges not related to his job

By Marti Davis (Contact)
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A child care worker at Cooper House, a group home for teen boys in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood, was arrested Friday outside the home by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on charges of dealing crack cocaine.

The suspect, Fred Bennett, also is a teaching assistant at Knox County's Ridgedale School, a facility for youth with disciplinary problems or special needs.

Bennett, 43, had been an evening child care worker for the Child and Family Services group home since 2003, said Kate O'Day, executive director of Child and Family Services. She stressed that Bennett's alleged drug activities had no connection to his job at Cooper House.

"There is no indication this had anything to do with us," said O'Day, who is upset that the DEA made its arrest at the group home. "This is really a big surprise to everybody. I'm just really dismayed this was the choice of location. This had nothing to do with our operation. If we'd been contacted we would have cooperated fully."

Bennett is on leave from both of his jobs pending hearings on the charges, said officials with Child and Family Services and Knox County Schools.

Bennett had been driving a Cooper House van, taking the youth on an errand, said O'Day. He was confronted by DEA officers after returning to the group home in the late afternoon. Knoxville police assisted in the arrest, according to KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk.

O'Day said her staff reported that the teens accompanying Bennett were sent inside. "They did not actually see the arrest taking place," she added.

O'Day said Bennett has regularly worked at Cooper House since 2003. Before being hired, he passed a background check including fingerprinting, references and past employers. "All of that was clear," O'Day said.

Residents at the house are boys ages 13 to 17, several of whom are in the custody of the state. She said she wasn't aware whether any boys had a history of drug abuse.

Counselors were provided to talk with the teens after Bennett's arrest, she added.

The state Department of Children's Services contracts with Child and Family Services for the care of youth in state custody, including seven at Cooper House, said DCS spokesman Rob Johnson. Johnson said DCS is looking into the matter.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracee Plowell said Bennett had no history of criminal charges that she was aware of. He was released without bond pending an arraignment set for Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Two additional suspects named in the indictment were Dexter Mims, also known as "DJ," and Lloyd Bonner.

The federal indictment, issued Aug. 5, says the three suspects distributed and possessed with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing detectable amounts of cocaine hydrochloride and 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base, also known as crack, from August 2006 to April 2007.

Marti Davis may be reached at 865-342-6305.

Child care worker arrested : Local News : Knoxville News Sentinel

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