Johnson City

Murdered woman's mother: 'She didn't deserve to go down like this"'

JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. - A man accused of killing a 28-year-old woman and then dumping her body into a lake made his first appearance in court Monday.

Steven Bennett is charged with the second degree murder of Vonda Donaldson and the abuse of her corpse. He was arraigned in Washington County, Tennessee General Sessions court Monday morning.

News 5 was inside the courtroom along with Donaldson's mother, Rosie Jenkins, who is living a mother's nightmare. "I have to go and bury my daughter, and it's the hardest thing a mother ever had to do. I hope nobody don't ever have to do this and feel what I have to feel," Jenkins said.

At a court arraignment Monday, Jenkins sat just feet away from the man police are accusing of killing her daughter, 28-year-old Vonda Donaldson. "I wanted him [Bennett] to look at me. I wanted him to know what he did, you know, what kind of person he is on the inside. He's not a good person," said Jenkins.

Police reports state Steven Bennett's mother called 911 to report her son killed Donaldson after the two got into a fight. A report states that investigators said Bennett had what appeared to be blood on his shoes, his pants, and in the trunk of Donaldson's car.

While in the courtroom, Judge Robert Lincoln read aloud a court affidavit. "Bennett stated that he had choked Vonda, wrapped her body in a motorcycle tarp, weighed her down and threw her off the Butler Bridge," said Lincoln as he read the document.

Hearing those words are part of the heartache family and friends of Vonda Donaldson are now forced to endure. "It's been very difficult," said family friend and Donaldson's Godmother Lisa Martin. "I've been with Rosie as much as I could during this."

Now, Jenkins and Martin are left with memories of a life the two say was taken far too early. "I just want people to know she was a very loving person. She loved life. She loved her kids, and she didn't deserve to go down like this," Jenkins tearfully added.

Here are more facts on Bennett's arraignment: We learned Judge Lincoln set Bennett's bond at $100,000.

Bennett was appointed a public defender, and he is scheduled to be back in court for a preliminary hearing later this week.

Donaldson's mother stressed she is thankful the support of the community to help her and her family get through this hard time. That includes family, friends, and the Johnson City Police Department among others.

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