Rape charges dropped against jail kitchen employee

Charges dropped after DA's office could not locate inmate and serve him a subpoena

Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — Charges have been dropped against a former San Juan County Adult Detention Center kitchen employee who was accused of having sex with a male inmate.

Jennifer Bengfort, 34, was charged in February 2015 with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual penetration in district court. The San Juan County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges on Dec. 30, according to court records.

A jury trial for Bengfort, also known as Jennifer McKnight, was scheduled to start this week before the charges were dropped.

The charges were dropped because the district attorney’s office could not locate the inmate and serve him a subpoena, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien.

Bengfort’s attorney, Eric Morrow, said the inmate would have been available to testify for the trial. He said Bengfort and the inmate were romantically involved before the inmate was in jail and married after he was released from jail.

Morrow said the district attorney’s office operated in good faith by pursuing the charges to ensure jail guards don’t abuse their authority. But, he said, Bengfort was not a guard and did not have authority over the inmate.

The charges stemmed from a relationship between an inmate and Bengfort, according to Daily Times archives.

In January 2015, San Juan County Sheriff's Office detectives interviewed an inmate who claimed Bengfort was romantically involved with another inmate and that the two would disappear together into a walk-in cooler in the kitchen, according to the arrest warrant.

During the investigation, detectives discovered sexual letters exchanged between Bengfort and the inmate, the warrant states. Detectives also swapped a stain in the walk-in cooler that tested presumptive positive for the presence of semen.

Bengfort also provided a statement in which she admitted to having engaged in oral sex with the inmate.

Before charges were filed, Bengfort worked as a manager for Summit Food Services, which contracts with the detention center.

Bengfort is no longer employed at the detention center, said Lt. Vance McCullough today. Her last day was Feb 12, 2015.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.