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Avoiding court, suspects split
Three men faced sex abuse charges
Bentley Charles
Charles Bentley - photo by Submitted


Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Charles Bentley, Kenneth Grant or Marcus Tillman can call the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Crime Stoppers tip line at (770) 888-7308. Callers may remain anonymous.

Two defendants facing sex abuse charges who failed to appear in Forsyth County Superior Court last month remain on the lam.

Authorities are also still searching for a local man who disappeared in February 2009, midway through his own trial on child molestation and other charges.

Their disappearances highlight the difficulties that agencies can have keeping tabs on suspects who are out on bond.

And though two defendants accused of crimes against children failed to appear in court last month, Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said she doesn’t see a pattern.

“There are more defendants that I’m surprised, based on what the facts (of their cases) are, that they do show up,” Penn said.
“I’m surprised that this does not happen more.

“In any given circuit on any given day, you are going to have people charged with crimes against children and other serious crimes that are not going to come to court.”

Aggravating the situation, two of the defendants were required to wear ankle monitors, which they ditched before disappearing.

Still, Penn said nothing short of incarceration can stop a defendant from going on the run.

In the most recent instance, Charles Howard Bentley, 71, of Bates Drive didn’t show up last month in Superior Court to enter a plea on two counts of child molestation.

Penn said he faced a sentence of three years in prison followed by probation.

“Mr. Bentley’s sentence will not be what it was that he was going to plead guilty,” Penn said. “I will say that that plea recommendation was based on him showing up and pleading guilty on Sept. 30, and he didn’t do that so that’s no longer available to him.”

Penn said she has authorized Bentley’s extradition. If found in another state, U.S. Marshals can pick him up and bring him back to Georgia.

Unlike Bentley, the two other missing suspects shed their ankle monitors to disappear.

Kenneth Dustin Grant, 42, of Gainesville was expected to appear Sept. 20 for a jury trial.

He faces four counts of child molestation and 15 counts of sexual exploitation of children.

He has also been indicted on three counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of aggravated child molestation.

If convicted of aggravated child molestation or aggravated sexual battery, Grant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Grant apparently removed his ankle-monitoring device Sept. 18 and threw it into Lake Lanier.

A Forsyth County Superior Court jury in 2009 convicted Marcus Tillman, despite his absence, of child molestation, aggravated sodomy and cruelty to children charges.

He was sentenced to 40 years in prison on March 19, 2009.

Penn said the company monitoring Grant’s device received a signal it had been cut.

The company then notified Forsyth County Pre-Trial Services, which alerted the court.

“I think by then though, it was already apparent that he was not in court,” Penn said. “His lawyer was there, but he wasn’t.”

She said there are about 20 defendants in the local system who wear ankle monitors.

Penn said she thinks the time lapse between the company discovering Grant was no longer wearing the device and the county being notified was the result of a breakdown in communication.

“We’re going to have to try and tighten up this system so that we can monitor these cases better and also, when people don’t show, then every effort needs to be made to find them,” she said.

Penn said the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office enlists the help of other agencies, like the marshals, in such matters.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandy Partridge, who is prosecuting Grant’s case, said she is disappointed he took off. A bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

“It really does genuinely make me sad,” said Partridge, adding that Grant is still presumed innocent.

Partridge said she likely will not seek additional charges against the suspect.

“The charges that he is facing are stiff enough,” she said. “It would do me no good and makes no difference to me. That doesn’t mean that I couldn’t.”