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2 Franklin County women charged in murder-for-hire case waive preliminary hearings
The cases against Angela Nolen, a kindergarten teacher at Sontag Elementary School, and Cathy Bennett, a nurse at Sontag, now will go to a grand jury.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
In Franklin County court on Thursday, Angela Nolen, helped by her attorney David Furrow, signs the warrant to waive a preliminary hearing in which she is charged with soliciting to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
The two Franklin County women accused of trying to hire a hit man appeared very briefly in court Thursday, where both waived their right to a preliminary hearing.
Angela Nolen, a teacher at Sontag Elementary School, and Cathy Bennett, a nurse at Sontag, were arrested Feb. 19 and charged with trying to hire someone to kill Nolen’s ex-husband, Paul Strickler, a retired Franklin County school administrator.
Preliminary hearings are generally forums for prosecutors to present evidence before a judge. With the two hearings waived, the cases will now proceed directly to a grand jury, which convenes early next month and will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.
Nolen, a 47-year-old kindergarten teacher, was brought into court Thursday wearing handcuffs that linked her wrists to a chain fastened around her waist, and her ankles were connected by leg irons. She has been held since her arrest and in late February was denied bond by a judge.
Investigators have said Nolen earlier this year met with an undercover state police investigator who she thought was a hit man; they’ve said she agreed to pay him $8,000 to murder Strickler. She’s charged with soliciting to kill a person.
According to Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Allen, investigators have video and audio footage of Nolen talking to the undercover agent in the parking lot of a Lowe’s home improvement store.
“The state police have done a pretty good job in this case,” Allen said before the hearing.
Bennett, 37, charged with one count of conspiracy to solicit to kill a person, was granted $60,000 bond on Feb. 22. That amount was later raised to $75,000 after county prosecutors appealed the decision in circuit court.
Bennett’s attorney, Carolyn Furrow, called the waiving of a preliminary hearing “trial strategy” for her client.
“This was a good decision,” she said, but did not elaborate.
Nolen’s lawyer, David Furrow, said Thursday he didn’t want to comment on a pending case.
Nolen and Strickler were married in 2000 and finalized their divorce late last year. Court records show Nolen was granted full custody of the couple’s adopted daughter. In October, she obtained a protective order that barred Strickler from contacting her and severely limited his interaction with the child.
Nolen’s motivation for seeking the protective order, and the circumstances behind its approval, have not yet been released.
Both women have been suspended from their jobs at Sontag Elementary pending the outcome of the charges.
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