Body found Tuesday ID’d as Newport woman missing since 2018

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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – On Thursday, the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office said it positively identified remains found on Tuesday as the body of Kristen Ashley Bennett, who was reported missing on August 16, 2018.

According to a statement released Thursday by Major Jason Wank, Chief Detective of the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office, detectives attended Wednesday’s autopsy of a body found Tuesday on property owned by the family of Trey Branche, who was arrested on Sept. 4, 2018, for the murder of 24-year-old Kristen Ashley Bennett.

During the autopsy, the statement said, “Vidant doctors and a team of pathologists were able to positively identify the remains as Kristen Bennett through dental records.”

A small-caliber bullet was also found during Bennett’s autopsy, and her death was ruled as a homicide caused by a gunshot wound to the head.

The statement also says funeral arrangements for Bennett have not yet been finalized.

Investigators say Bennett was reported missing by her mother on August 16, 2018, two days after she was last seen with her boyfriend, Trey Branche, at their home on Hibbs Road in Newport.

Branche was arrested on Sept. 4, 2018, and charged with one open count of murder, and one count of failing to report a death, for the murder of Kristen Bennett.

Detectives said the investigation into Bennett’s homicide is ongoing and no further information will be released at this time.

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On Tuesday, the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office said they recovered a body who investigators believe is Kristen A. Bennett of Newport.

Bennett was reported missing by her parents on August 16, 2018, after being missing for two days.

On September 4, 2018, Bennett’s boyfriend Lewis Victor Branche III, also known as Trey Branche, was arrested for her murder, deputies said.

On Tuesday morning, officials received and acted on information that led them to the area of Point Road and Morris Hill Lane in Mill Creek on property owned by Branche’s family.

Investigators said they dug up the remains of a white female wrapped in a tarp.

Items located on the body were consistent with those reported by her family.

Deputies said the body was buried several feet below the surface.

The body was transported to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville for official identification in addition to an autopsy that will be performed this week.

The case remains under investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office thanks citizens, volunteers, and our other law enforcement partners who have assisted with the efforts to locate Kristen over the past eleven months.

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A community search is taking place in Carteret County for a woman missing since last August.

24-year-old Kristen Bennett was reported missing by her mother on August 16, 2018, two days after she was last seen with Trey Branche at their residence on Hibbs Road in Newport. 

Branche was arrested 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. 

District attorney Scott Thomas says the search started Saturday at 10 am.

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

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NEWPORT, N.C. (WNCT) – 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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