Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True story: Holding Hands with Evil (pt. 6)

What follows is a true story. I wrote it following interviews with murderer Eric Nenno and Mark Young, and after reviewing newspaper accounts of the case. All names and information are public record. What is different is the perspective: of the killer, and the man who caught him. Parts One through Five are below.

PLEASE NOTE: while not unduly graphic in description, this is the story of the murder of a young girl. Do not read this if the subject matter is disturbing to you.


They went in and Young turned to Nenno. “Where is she?”

Nenno looked at the floor, and his right arm slowly raised upwards, a finger pointing to the attic right above them. He didn’t say a word. Young nodded at Johnson who reached for the trap door above them, pulling the cord and unfolding the wooden step ladder. Johnson climbed the rungs and disappeared into the attic. A minute later he descended the stairs shaking his head.

“Eric, she’s not there,” said Young.

Nenno wouldn’t look him in the eye. “Maybe I saw her there in my dreams,” he said.

“Then in your dreams, Eric,” Young pressed. “In your dreams, where would she be?”

Nenno once again pointed upwards while keeping his eyes firmly on the concrete floor. This time he spoke: “Behind the boxes. Further back, behind the boxes.”

Young cuffed Nenno with his hands behind his back and left him with several deputies who had joined them at the scene. He climbed the ladder to look for himself. The attic was cold and dark inside but he was able to see the length of it either side of him. He looked to his left, towards the house and made out a low stack of boxes. Steeling himself, he walked to the boxes, looked behind them, and his heart sank. Nicole Benton lay on the floor, her legs splayed out, naked and deathly pale. Underneath her hips and legs was a large sheet of plastic wrap. He knew she was dead. He knew it from the way she looked and from the way he had found her. But on the off-chance, just in case there might possibly be a flutter of life left in her, Young bent down and gently laid his fingers against her skin. She was as cold as ice.

An experienced professional who had seen more than his share of dead bodies, adult and child, finding a body always provoked powerful and basic of emotions in Young: helplessness, anger, revenge, and deep, deep sadness. But, as always, he willed them away, intent on maintaining his professionalism. He now worked for her, for Nicole Benton. He would make sure every investigative step was perfect and precise, locking every possible piece of evidence into place to make sure her killer never did this to another human being.

Young, the father of two daughters, gritted his teeth and left Nicole where she lay. He knew that a team of experts would soon arrive to analyze the crime scene, take photographs and samples, makes maps and charts. He hated leaving her like this, naked and vulnerable, but he had no choice. She was gone, the real Nicole, and what remained needed to be turned into evidence. Once the crime scene experts were done, and not before, little Nicole could be reunited with her grieving parents for their final good-bye.

Young slowly descended the ladder. Part of him wanted to think of his own little girls, one just a few years older than Nicole, and part of him wanted to choke the life from the monster who stood there in handcuffs. But Agent Young did what he always did in these cases, he set those feelings aside, he shut off every part of his mind except the part that was running the investigation. After all, there was a lot still to figure out. They had found the body and Eric Nenno had implicated himself, but they didn’t know the full story. They didn’t know how or when she had died. And, of most interest to Young, why she had died.

(To be continued on 10/28)


  1. This made me cry. The only light at the end of this tunnel is that at least they caught him so he can't do it to anyone else. Poor Nicole and her family.

  2. Lisa, this was such an awful thing, I know. Now I have a daughter the same age as Nicole and I'm even more horrified by it than I was when I first heard it from Mark Young. As you say, he won't do it again, that is one thing.

  3. I know it is a very small comfort but having had two small children in my family murdered, it really is a great comfort when you know that the perpetrator is in prison for the rest of his life (or on death row) and that he can't hurt anymore children. It does nothing to mitigate the pain or the loss of the child nor does it make your grief any less painful. But I have a daughter now and I can say I do sleep slightly better at night knowing he cannot kill again. (Today is the anniversary of the first murder actually so it's been on my mind. Not HIS first murder but the first of our family members).


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