TERRE HAUTE —
Two Terre Haute men will be formally charged next Thursday on child molestation allegations after a missing 12-year-old girl was found Thursday in the home where they lived.
Brandon Bennett, 18, and Tim Sanders, 24, appeared via video Friday morning in Vigo Superior Court 1, where Judge John Roach found probable cause for their arrests on charges of child molestation.
The missing child was found at a home in the 2900 block of Fenwood Avenue where both men reside with Bennett’s father. The child had not been seen by her family since Sunday evening, and a Code Red missing child alert was issued Tuesday night.
Detective Lt. Steve Barnhart of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department testified that Terre Haute Police received information that the girl was at the Fenwood Avenue home. Police responded to the scene and found the girl there with Bennett.
Barnhart said police talked to the girl as well as Bennett and Sanders to find out what happened to the middle school-age child after she left her home Sunday, reportedly to visit a friend.
Barnhart said Bennett told police he had met the girl on the social website Facebook about 10 days earlier. She agreed to meet him near Sky King Airport, which is near the girl’s residence. Between 6 and 7 p.m., a person drove Bennett to the area of the airport where he met the girl and they walked into a nearby wooded area. Around 10 p.m., a person picked up the pair and drove them to Bennett’s mother’s house near 18th Street and Wilson Avenue, according to authorities.
Bennett told police that the girl, whom he said he thought was age 17, told him she had been kicked out of school and that she was afraid of her father. The 18-year-old suspect said he received permission from his father for the girl to stay at the Fenwood Avenue home.
Sanders represented the girl to Bennett’s father as being age 17, Barnhart testified in court.
The detective said Bennett admitted to having sex with the girl several occasions during the time she was at the home. The detective said Bennett later admitted that the girl told him she was age 13, almost 14, but Bennett claimed that if the girl had told him she was 12, he would not have had sex with her.
Bennett also reportedly told police that Sanders purchased beer at a local store and shared it with the girl and Bennett, and that all three smoked marijuana during their time together.
Sanders denied to police that he gave Bennett and the girl alcohol, but he admitted to grinding up a hydrocodone tablet and snorting it with the girl. Barnhart said Sanders also admitted to police that he engaged in a sex act with the girl.
After Roach found probable cause for the arrests of Bennett and Sanders, he set their bonds at $35,000, cash only. They will return to court via video on Thursday.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@
tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.