ATF: Woman pleads guilty to planting car bomb on ‘snitch’

A Tacoma woman pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to charges connected to planting an explosive device on the vehicle owned by a person she believed to be a “snitch.”

Federal authorities charged Kenni Jo Bennett with unlawful possession of a destructive device for the October 2016 incident, according to the criminal complaint.

Last August, Bennett came to believe that the victim was a snitch who was providing law enforcement officials with details of her drug trafficking operation. This belief led Bennett to make contact with an individual known as “Sonny,” who resided on the Puyallup Indian Reservation, from whom she planned to purchase an explosive device. Sonny did, in fact, provide Bennett with such a device, which was described as the size of a soda can with a green fuse coming out of one end and a magnet.

Bennett then enlisted the help of another individual, Thomas Fite, Jr., to assist her in planting the device on the victim’s vehicle. Bennett later told authorities she provided Fite with one ounce of methamphetamine as an incentive to help her.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 2016, Bennett and Fite went to the victim’s residence, where his Kia Forte sedan was parked in the driveway. According to the plea agreement, Bennett told authorities she ignited the fuse on the explosive device with a lit cigarette, then instructed Fite where to place it on the car. Bennett recorded the explosion on her cell phone before she and Fite drove away.

At the time of the explosion, the victim was not home, but his girlfriend and her three children, who were sleeping in a front living room of the house at the time, were. Although the explosive caused moderate damage to the vehicle and scattered debris into neighboring yards, no one was injured.

Soon after the crime was committed, police received an anonymous call about the explosion, which left the car with a hole in the trunk and the back bumper disconnected. An investigation, which was initially hindered by heavy rains, was then launched. Authorities used surveillance video taken from multiple homes in the neighborhood and witness testimony to identify Bennett as the suspect. Text messages exchanged between Bennett and Fite appeared to further implicate the two.

Bennett was arrested and charged about a month after the explosion, then charged in federal court in May. She faces up to 10 years in prison with three years of supervised release, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.