– Arlene Bedard
Mother say son’s end not fitting of his life
Arlene Bedard said she has fond memories of her son, Daniel Bennett. One of two children, he was always a quiet and sensitive child. When others in his junior high school class were mocking a teacher who walked with a limp because of an illness, Danny was upset. “They make fun of him, ma,” Danny told her. “But you don’t, do you?” Bedard asked her son. He told her he didn’t.
“He didn’t like people being hateful like that,” she said.
A 1985 graduate of Buckfield High School, Bennett also completed – with high grades – a yearlong forestry program with the University of Maine. Then, at 19, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. His earlier plans to go into the woods to work with his father hadn’t worked out.
“So, I think he went into the Marines to prove he could,” said his sister, Laurie (Bennett) Hart.
Younger than her brother by 18 months, Hart was “Boo-boo” to Danny. A baby sister, she was also his confidant, his friend and, to some degree, his counselor. He told her things he wouldn’t tell others. She coached him and reassured him in tough times, telling him when to fly straight, shape up or get help. Only Hart was given exclusive permission to display Danny’s Marine Corps boot camp photo. His mother was not.
“I just don’t think he wanted to look at it every day,” Hart said.
Still, Bennett’s time in the Marines was short-lived. On leave and at home after basic training, he suffered a head injury and broke his jaw in a car accident. His family still believes the accident played a role in his mental health problems.
“He was even more withdrawn and quieter after he had that accident,” Bedard said. “After, he was different.”
Jaw wired shut, he returned to the military, but quickly became frustrated with the pace of his recovery and the Marine Corps’ intended plans for him.
So, when he learned that because of the jaw injury he would be given a different Marine Corps job than he had been promised, he returned to Sumner, absent without leave.
He would later turn himself in and ended up serving a three-month sentence at Quantico, Va., before being discharged under less-than-honorable circumstances. After his discharge he returned to his rural home.
Danny loved fishing, trapping, being outdoors, basketball, reading westerns and horror, and tinkering. As a child he would take apart any electronic toy he had. “He had to know how it worked,” she said. “But he always had some things left over when he put it back together.”
Later in life, he convinced Bedard to let him rebuild an engine in a car she had. She was doubtful he could do it, but eventually relented. He rebuilt the engine in two weeks for about $70. The car ran for another year before Bedard traded it. He never did get all the parts installed, though. “I didn’t put your air conditioning in,” Bedard remembers him saying.
“He was not perfect, he was not, but not horrible by any means.”
Danny died in Bedard’s home, and nothing has been done to fix the bullet holes in the walls and floors. Some bloodstains have not been cleaned or covered. The family doesn’t want to erase evidence that they believe shows a version of events different than what law officers involved in the shooting have provided.
“Every time I walk out through there and glance to the left and see bullet holes and bloodstains … it just about brings you to your knees,” she said.
There’s also anger, she said. Her son’s head and face were so damaged from gunshot wounds his funeral had to be closed-casket, she said. “There was no other way.”
Bedard reflects on her and Hart’s decision to look at Danny’s damaged body one last time before he was buried.
The mother knows that “I’ve seen him at his best and I’ve seen him at his worst.”