Suspect identified in murder of Tennessee teens, woman

Tim Ghianni

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Tennessee man who had served time for theft was identified on Friday as the suspect in the shooting deaths of a young woman and three teenage boys whose bodies were found in a car on a mountain road in the state, authorities said.

The suspect, Jacob Allen Bennett of Crab Orchard, was arrested overnight on a parole violation, police and prosecutors said. They provided few details except to say that Bennett and the victims knew each other.

Bennett has not been charged in the killings, but prosecutors said they expected to present their evidence to a grand jury in the near future.

Police identified the victims as Danielle Jacobson, 22, who was the driver, and passengers Steven Presley, 17, Dominic Davis, 17, and John Lajeunesse, 16. Their bodies were discovered in a car on Thursday morning on Renegade Mountain, about 100 miles east of Nashville.

"I know this really affected a lot of the high-school age kids," said Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess, in a news conference broadcast on WBIR television. "This is something that's very traumatic and it has never happened in our county before, to this extent."

Guidance counselors were sent to the three Cumberland County high schools the teens had attended to help students, according to Superintendent Donald Andrews.

During the news conference, prosecutors and police gave no indication of a possible motive. Asked if the crime was drug-related, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn said that most crimes of this type involve drugs.

Bennett had been in the county's jail five times, Burgess said, adding that he had also been booked in other counties.

The suspect was sentenced in 2010 to six years in prison on charges of theft, forgery and possession of a handgun during a felony. He was released on parole March 4, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Andrews said Presley had graduated in May from Phoenix, an alternative high school, and was working in the community.

Davis had been a sophomore at Cumberland County High School, where he'd been "well-received" by other students after moving there from another state, the superintendent said. Lajeunesse had attended both Cumberland and Stone Memorial High Schools before being home schooled, he added.

Jacobson was the mother of a young child, according to local news media, but this could not immediately be confirmed.

The deaths have shaken the mostly retired residents of the Renegade Mountain community, in a 3,000-acre, densely-wooded area in the small town of Crab Orchard.

A resident discovered the bodies on the way to work on Thursday morning. The car was on an unpaved road about 100 feet off the main road, according to John Moore, president of the Renegade Mountain Community Club.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni, additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski, editing by G Crosse)