This story was written by Jolene Almendarez and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs.
ITHACA, N.Y. — A man accused of sexually abusing two young children was taken into custody less than 25 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Saturday, two days before his trial was set to begin in Ithaca.
Ever Benites, 36, who was out on bail after being charged with multiple felonies for abusing two children over several years, was taken into custody at a travel center in Edinburg, Texas.
After learning that Benites was on a bus from Nashville to Texas, Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia secured a bench warrant from a Tompkins County judge and called police departments along the bus route.
Benites was arrested at 5:06 p.m. CDT at the Edinburg Travel Center off of U.S. 281 and booked into the Hidalgo County jail about four hours later, according to an official from the sheriff’s office.
The final destination of the bus, operated by Tornado Bus Company, was Brownsville, Texas, a city directly bordering Mexico.
Benites, who was released on $20,000 cash bail or $40,000 bond in December, did not show up to his court appearance in Tompkins County Friday. At that time, he apparently falsely told his attorney, Seth Peacock, that his bus from Nashville to Ithaca had been delayed in Cincinnati.
“We had concerns when he didn’t show up Friday,” Bonavia said.
Danny Johnston, who hired Benites in January as an independent contractor for his Nashville-based remodeling company, Johnston Property Services, said three customers reported stolen items after Benites worked in their homes.
Johnston’s girlfriend, Courtney Nunnally, said Benites stole more than $30,000 in watches and other jewelry from customer’s homes. Nunnally said Benites left a letter to his cousin where he said he planned “to stock-pile cash, steal and pawn items to get cash to run.”
Johnston and Nunnally said that when they learned that Benites may be heading to Mexico, they contacted the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, the Ithaca Police Department, The Ithaca Voice and Bonavia.
The DA’s office will seek a governor’s warrant to bring Benites back to Tompkins County unless Benites waives extradition, Bonavia said.
“He’s not going to be here by Monday, that’s for sure,” Bonavia said.
Benites worked off and on for the Ithaca City School District from 2002 to 2013 in multiple roles, including pre-kindergarten teacher aide, substitute teaching assistant and custodian.
Benites is facing two counts of felony first-degree sexual abuse, felony course of sexual conduct against a child and two counts of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.
Editor’s Note: Upon learning of Benites’ alleged plans to go to Mexico, The Ithaca Voice contacted Tompkins County authorities out of concern that people’s safety could be directly compromised as a result of not reporting the information.
Correction: Benites initially said his bus was delayed in Cincinnati, not Cleveland as initially reported.