It was 1:30 am on Saturday. Tracy Bennawit, 33, along with her 14 year old son and her new boyfriend Adam Strickland were just arriving at Bennawit’s home.
Waiting in a wooded area near the home was Darren Bridgeman, 34, Bennawit’s ex-boyfriend. Bridgeman began shooting and Tracy Bennawit was killed, Adam Strickland was shot and injured. Bennawit was pronounced dead at the scene and Strickland was airlifted to the hospital where is reported to be in serious but stable condition.
Police say the attack was premeditated, that Bridgeman waited in that wooded area for them to come home.
And they say that the 14 year old boy did witness the attack.
Bridgeman left the scene and is not in custody. Police are searching for him at this time. Bridgeman is 5’8″, has a cleanly shaven head, and speaks with a British accent. He is believed to be armed and dangerous.
One thing I usually try not to do is to visualize the scene. But this time I did.
1:30 am, the end of your day and you have just arrived home. Your defenses would be down, due to both the fact that you are tired and that you are now home.
It is dark. You get out of the car, suddenly there he is, then loud gunshots, maybe screaming, blood, then the sudden silence. And only one person left standing. A 14 year old boy/man.
He was left to call police. And in the minutes before they arrived, he was there with two people who had been shot. His mother dead, a friend injured. The minutes before help arrived must have seemed like hours. He was left to answer police questions, and to go over and over what happened in his mind, reliving what he saw that night. I cannot guess what he did after that. Did he sit in silence and shock when he wasn’t being asked questions? Did he sob with grief or cry silently? Those things I cannot guess.
But one thing I will guess at…..I would guess that while he sat there in grief, he wished that his mother could
be there to put her arm on his shoulder, to give him a hug. To hold him.
Tracey Bennawit and Darren Bridgemann used to be engaged and the two owned a video game business. When the relationship broke up, she bought him out.
Tracey had sought and received a protection from abuse order the day of the shootings.
The 14 year old boy has gone to his fathers. His father has stated that he was shot at, but managed to escape.
I believe this is the gaming site owned by Tracey Bennawit. It seems that Saturday night the center was hosting a ‘Charity Fight Night Tournament’ The proceeds were to benefit New Hope for Kids, a non-profit organization that works with kids dealing with grief.
I have just come off a forum where I read a lot of responses about Tracy Bennawit’s death. And I have to say that I was amazed at the support, care, and concern those members showed for each other. They are angry, yes. But they are handling their anger very gracefully. And more than angry, they are determined. Determined that Tracy not be forgotten, and determined to help each other through the ordeal. Though most appear to be young, they seem more mature than many adults I know.
Through their words, and through their actions, Tracy became very real to me. And I could tell what a good person she was. And I think she would be very proud of them right now.
Tracy’s son and boyfriend also posted there. And her son seems like a young man that any Mother would have been proud of even before that night. And from what I read, he was more a man that night than a 15 year old boy. He did what was needed to be done and he did it well. I am not going to post his name or his nic……as I think he is entitled to his privacy. But if he ever makes it here, I want to let him know that he was a man that anyone would be proud to know and any Mother would be proud of.
Adam is out of the hospital, and seems to be doing well. Evidently his brush was more serious than what was published.
A memorial site has been set up in Tracy Bennawit’s memory: http://ftopro.com/tb/index.php
Still nothing yet on Bridgeman.
A partial transcript of the 911 call, and a testimony of the bravery of Tracy Bennawit’s son.
Seminole County has been planning to develop a domestic violence unit since 2004 and they have applied for a grant to help make it possible. With the most recent murders, Seminole County is now second only to Miami-Dade county in having the highest number of domestic violence related deaths.
But after Tracy Bennawit’s death, there is more urgency and they say they will go forward whether they get the grant or not.
Investigators now believe that Bridgeman planned his escape in advance. He is believed to have gotten in a plane headed for England on June 24, in Atlanta. The ticket was reserved on June 23, and paid for with cash in Atlanta 15 hours after the shooting. He had also withdrawn a large amount of cash from a bank before the murders. Bridgeman was picked up by a friend in England. Scotland Yard is now involved in the search.
Police are asking the public’s help in trying to determine how he got to Atlanta. They are asking anyone who may have come into contact with him to please contact the police. “He may have had blood on his clothes,” Martin said. “He may have had a weapon in his position that he discarded somehow. Any point that he traveled is a potential location for a witness to help us in finding out if he had accomplices who knew what he did.”
Allegedly Bridgeman left a suicide note in his home, but it is believed that may have been an attempt to throw police off his trail.
Police say that Tracy Bennawit was shot 6 times.
Steve Huff has now done an article on the murder of Tracy Bennawit at Crime Library.
Police still looking for the gun used in the murder and for how Bridgeman got from central Florida to Alanta, Ga. Scotland Yard is involved in the search for Bridgeman, but it is not certain that he remains in England.
More details on what occurred that night and what her son went through as Bridgeman looked for him.
Darren Bridgeman has been reported to have turned himself in to authorities in England. He is being held on a provisional extradition warrant and is due in court on Fri.
Bridgeman appeared in court and he is refusing to consent to extradition. He will be taken back to court on July 13.
The authority from the US indicated to the court that when Bridgeman turned himself in to the Worchester police station, that was by prior arrangement.
Refusal to consent to extradition, this article says that he is due in court again on Thurs.
The story of Adam Strickland’s miraculous survival. His dogtags were positioned over his heart at the time he was shot. They deflected the bullet, the bullet then hit his chest and went out of his arm.
Bridgeman is due in Bow Street Magistrates’ Court in London where it is said he will appear via video link, on Thurs.
Bridgeman remains in the U.K. Grand Jury indited him for the murder of Tracy Bennawit and the attempted murder of Adam Strickland. He is fighting extradition.
Bridgeman appeared in court in the UK on Aug. 11. Due back in court again on Sept. 7.
Darren Bridgeman now in the U.S. in the Seminole county jail where he is being held without bail.