Saint John man charged in toddler's death in court for hearing

Madison Bennett, who now goes by the name Karrson Bennett, is scheduled to stand trial for second-degree murder, beginning in March 2023. (Facebook - image credit)
Madison Bennett, who now goes by the name Karrson Bennett, is scheduled to stand trial for second-degree murder, beginning in March 2023. (Facebook - image credit)

Pre-trial hearings are now in their second week in Saint John in the case of a 24-year-old accused of causing the death of a two-year-old by putting a Ping-Pong ball in the child's mouth.

Details presented at the lengthy voir dire, however, are protected by a publication ban and cannot be reported. The hearings are held to deal with a number of legal matters in advance of the trial.

Madison Bennett, who now goes by the name Karrson Bennett, was originally charged with criminal negligence causing death in September 2021, but that was changed to second-degree murder in December. He is also charged with breach of probation.

Bennett previously elected to be tried by a judge and jury. A five-week jury trial is scheduled to begin on March 27, 2023.

Bennett was remanded to custody until the conclusion of his trial. He appeared in person at the Saint John courthouse for the hearings, still sporting a below-the-jawline beard and black-rimmed glasses.

The identity of the child involved is protected by a publication ban. So, too, are many of the details discussed during several pre-trial conferences, and some of the details contained in documents filed with the court.

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Saint John police have said officers responded to a 911 call on Sept. 18, 2021, about an unconscious child at a residence. The child was eventually airlifted to the children's hospital in Halifax but died the next day.

In October 2021, Bennett was found fit to stand trial after a 30-day psychiatric assessment at the Restigouche Hospital Centre. A subsequent assessment at Restigouche determined that Bennett was criminally responsible at the time of the alleged offence.

History of drug use 

Although some portions of the two reports from Restigouche are protected by publication bans, the remaining details reveal a troubled childhood and a history of abusing drugs, including LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, injectable opioids, bath salts (a stimulant), and Percocet.

The report said Bennett had been to drug rehabilitation five times and attempted suicide four times.

Bennett was assessed by a psychiatrist in December 2020 and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He was also found to be in full remission from stimulant use disorder, hallucinogen use disorder and opioid use disorder.

Not the first time

It's not the first time Bennett has been charged with hurting a child. In fact, he was still on probation from a similar incident when he was charged in 2021.

In 2017, he was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault of another toddler.

He eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced in January 2019 to three years in prison, which was to be followed by 36 months of supervised probation. With credit for time served, the sentence amounted to 18 months.