Police have suspect in missing woman case

POSTED: 5:55 PM Oct 02 2012
steven odell bennett
CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. -

Johnson City Police are releasing more information about the disappearance of a 28-year-old woman.

Officers are now saying it is unlikely Vonda Donaldson will be found alive. A major part of the investigation is now centering around the Butler Bridge over Watauga Lake in Carter County.

Johnson City Police say they are not ready to rule this case a homicide, but they say witness statements lead them to believe she is no longer alive.

Investigators spent the day searching the water around the Butler Bridge in Carter County.

Johnson City police captain Mike Street said this afternoon Donaldson's boyfriend Steven Bennett is the only suspect in the case. Street expects charges to be filed once Donaldson is located.

News 5 WCYB obtained a copy of the police report where officers say Bennett told family members he choked Vonda Donaldson to death during an argument at her apartment Saturday night.

He is now in jail on an unrelated parole violation, but detectives say he is cooperating with the search for Donaldson.

Officers say Vonda Donaldson was last heard from on Saturday . She attended a wedding in the evening.

Police say she went back to her apartment and was last heard from when talked to a family member around 11:20 Saturday night.

"Our primary goal right now is to recover the body and locate miss Donaldson," Captain Street said.

We've learned a little more about Steven Bennett -- he has a lengthy criminal history including an aggravated kidnaping conviction. Police say he and Donaldson had been dating on and off for about a month, but had known each other longer.

Officers say there is no record of violence between the two.