Newport man charged with murder of girlfriend appears in court

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A man charged with the murder of his 24-year-old girlfriend in Carteret County appeared in court Wednesday. 

Lewis Victor Branche III, also known as Trey Branche, was given a court-appointed attorney, and his next appearance is September 21. 

Branche was arrested Tuesday and charged with killing Kristen Bennett. He has been charged with one open count of murder and one count of failing to report a death. 

Branche, 26, and Bennett had been dating for the past six years, the Carteret County Sheriffs’ Office said.  

Bennett was reported missing by her mother on August 16, two days after she was last seen with Branche at their residence on Hibbs Road in Newport. 

On the same she was reported missing, detectives interviewed Branche and searched their home. 

Since then, detectives have interviewed a number of witnesses and investigated “countless pieces of information.” 

On August 23, the Sheriff’s Office and the SBI executed a search warrant on the home and vehicles operated by Bennett and Branche. 

The Sheriff’s Office said physical and digital evidence led them to conclude Bennett is dead, although they are still searching for her body. 

Branche is being held in the Carteret County Jail with no bond. 

The Sheriff’s Office said Branche is no longer cooperating with officials.

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The Carteret County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in searching for a missing woman.

24-year-old Kristen Bennett was last seen on Hibbs Road in Newport around 2 p.m. last Tuesday, August 14.

She is described as being five feet, three inches tall, weighing around 100 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Bennett was last seen wearing a blue tank top with white stripes, with an orange long-sleeve shirt over the tank top, blue jean shorts and black Nike tennis shoes.

If you see Bennett, you are asked to call the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office.

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