It may be just a few weeks before an ex-Marine who faked his own death is extradited to Las Vegas to face murder charges.
Arthur Gus Bennett pleaded no contest Friday in St. George to three second-degree felony charges of sexual abuse of a child under age 14. Each carries a sentence of one-to-15 years in prison and 5th District Judge James Shumate ordered the terms to run consecutively.Clark County Deputy District Attorney Chris Owens said Bennett first will be booked into the Utah State Prison system. Following him there will be paperwork from Clark County, Nevada, ordering him to face charges in Las Vegas.
Then Bennett will decide if he wants to fight extradition.
Bennett's Utah attorney, Kenneth Combs, said Bennett appears ready and willing to go to Las Vegas.
"The feeling I get from him is that these are more serious charges, and he's anxious about what's going to happen down there," Combs said.
Bennett, 44, was known to his neighbors in nearby Hurricane, Utah, as Joe Benson, a gregarious veteran with a penchant to be a blowhard.
He was arrested on Halloween after an investigation into rumors that Bennett had assaulted a young girl. He was ultimately charged with 13 sex-crime felonies involving three girls - a pair of 13-year-olds and a 15-year-old - including his two daughters.
Then investigators discovered that Bennett, a sergeant in the Marines, faked his own death in a trailer fire near Las Vegas in February 1994 while under investigation for allegedly molesting another soldier's child while stationed in Yuma, Ariz.
His family apparently collected a $200,000 insurance policy, changed their name and moved to Hurricane.
Police don't know whose charred remains they found in the ashes of the fire, but Clark County officials indicted Bennett in April on charges of first-degree murder, arson, insurance fraud, theft and sexual assault of a minor under age 14.
In exchange for his guilty pleas on Friday, prosecutors dropped a number of first-degree felony charges that could have landed Bennett in a Utah prison for life.