Active search underway for NC mom missing nearly 10 months

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NEWPORT, N.C. (WNCT/WNCN)  — A community search is taking place Saturday in Carteret County for a young mother missing since last August.

Kristen Ashley Bennett, 24, was reported missing by her mother on August 16, 2018, two days after she was last seen with Lewis Victor Branche III at their home on Hibbs Road in Newport. 

Branche, 26, who was Bennett’s boyfriend, was later arrested and charged with killing Bennett. The pair had been dating for six years, officials said.

Branche, who is also known as Trey Branche, has been charged with one open count of murder and one count of failing to report a death.  

District attorney Scott Thomas says the search started Saturday at 10 a.m.

On the same day she was reported missing last year, detectives interviewed Branche and searched their home.

Since then, detectives have interviewed a number of witnesses and investigated “countless pieces of information.”

On Aug. 23, 2018, the sheriff’s office and the State Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant on the home and vehicles operated by Bennett and Branche.

Officials took two cars from the scene of Bennett’s home that she shared with her young son and her boyfriend in the Carteret County town.

Carteret County Sheriff’s Office Detectives said the cars were taken to a garage “where they were examined further for evidence.”

The sheriff’s office said physical and digital evidence led them to conclude Bennett is dead, although they are still searching for her body.

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