S. Ct. refuses appeal of condemned pedophile

HOUSTON Eric Nenno, 46, had asked the high court to review last summer's rejection of his appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He argued the silence of a polygraph examiner after he took the lie detector test improperly coerced him into making an incriminating statement that led to the discovery of the dead girl's body in the attic of his home in Hockley, about 30 miles northwest of Houston.

It was 13 years ago Sunday -- March 23, 1995 -- that Nicole Benton disappeared from her father's birthday celebration.

Nenno, a former plumbing supply salesman, was questioned two days later.

When police showed up at his house down the street from the Benton home, he invited them in and appeared nervous when they asked about the girl. He agreed to go to a police command post that had been set up nearby and agreed to talk with authorities, who asked him what he thought happened to the girl. His response was that he thought she was abducted, raped and murdered.

When he was asked what kind of person would do something like that, he replied it would be someone like him, according to court documents.

He then agreed to submit to a polygraph and signed a release form. After the test, authorities remained silent for six or seven minutes, prompting Nenno to finally say: "I failed it, didn't I?" When the examiner told Nenno he needed to disclose where the girl was, Nenno told him, "I think she's still in the attic."

That's where her body was found and Nenno was arrested. She had been raped repeatedly and choked to death.

In his state and federal appeals, Nenno contended the silence was an improper tactic and any statements resulting from it should not be allowed as evidence. However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the lower federal appeals courts said the polygraph was not unlawful and statements were not the result of coercion.

Nenno gave written consent for police to search his home and directed police to the attic.

At his trial, defense lawyers presented evidence he was under influence of alcohol and marijuana before his arrest. They also presented evidence that showed he had no history of violence.

In his confession to police, Nenno admitted having sexual fantasies involving young girls for most of his life.

The Harris County jury that considered the case deliberated about 11 hours before deciding on the death penalty.

He does not have an execution date. All executions are on hold until the Supreme Court decides a Kentucky case that challenges the constitutionality of lethal injection, the method used for capital punishment in Texas and most other states with the death penalty. A decision in the case is expected by early summer.

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