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A Conversation With Sedgwick County's New DA

Carla Eckels

Marc Bennett was elected as Sedgwick County District Attorney in November 2012. He is the first new DA for the county in 24 years. He succeeded Nola Foulston, who had served as DA since 1989.

Bennett is familiar with the Sedgwick County DA’s office, having served 15 years as Deputy District Attorney of Trial Division II, where he was in charge of the prosecution of sex crimes, domestic violence charges, elder abuse and financial crimes.

Bennett grew up in Sedgwick County, attended high school in Goddard and graduated from Kansas State University and Washburn University School of Law.

He has tried some high profile cases in Sedgwick County including:

  • The Cornelius Oliver case, a 2001 quadruple murder case that took place just eight days before the well-known Carr brother’s quadruple murder case.
  • The Doug Belt case, a murder case that involved the decapitation of a 43-year-old woman.
  • The Chelsea Brooks case, a murder case involving a 14-year-old girl who was nine months pregnant at the time.

In his new role, Bennett says he plans to continue working on high profile cases and balancing administrative work as well.
“Having tried several death penalty cases, I’m holding on to the Dollar General store case that took place just before the turn of the year,” he says.

“The reality is, given the administrative responsibilities, if I’m trying a case every week, I’m going to have to get someone else to run the DA’s office.”

He says his goal is to be in court as often as possible.

Bennett has already made changes in the Sedgwick County DA’s office including adding a new economic crime division.

When asked about his new role as DA compared to what’s seen in detective shows on television, Bennett said there is one thing that is very similar.

“During the course of a week, in the last few days, I’ve had probably ten discussions with lawyers who will come in and run their case with me,” he says. “Here’s my murder case, here’s what’s going on, here’s where we find ourselves, here’s the offer the defense has made."

Bennett says he also sits down with every homicide victim's family, talking to them and letting them know where the his office is headed with the case.

In February Bennett hired long time KFDI broadcaster, Dan Dillon, as media coordinator for the office.

“I think there are things that the public needs to know that are going on in the community," he says, “[Like] being made aware of consumer protection issues and other concerns that have a law enforcement component."

Plus, he says people just need to know about what takes place in the DA’s office.

“I’ve been in prosecution now for 18 years,” he says, “I know what we do here, but when I was campaigning, it was surprising to me how few people really know what goes on in this place."

Bennett says with more awareness he hopes the public will be more comfortable with what his office is "They’ll have a better idea of whether or not we are doing a good job," he says.

Historically, Bennett says he thinks the Sedgwick County DA’s office has done a good job of prosecuting really high profile murders and rape cases. He says every citizen fully expects the DA’s office to put full weight behind those cases and that’s never going to change.

But he has also put new energy put into property crimes and interacting with the law enforcement agents who investigate those crimes.

“One point of change that we’ve already begun to see the fruits of is we are interacting with the big box companies, with the loss prevention officers at Target and Kroger and Walmart,” he says.

Bennett says whether he’s the Sedgwick County District Attorney three more years or longer, he’s working to do the job that he’s been hired to do, and that is to serve all of the citizens.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.