Delaware Man Pleads Guilty in Connection with Bradford Teen’s Shooting Death in 2017

Thomas Warner, left, and Kenneth Pitts, far right, appeared in Newburyport District Court on July 18, 2018. (WHAV News photograph.)

Bryce Finn. (Courtesy photograph.)

A Delaware man, one of four men accused in the killing a Haverhill teen in 2017 pleaded guilty this afternoon to manslaughter and will serve up to 25 years in prison.

In lieu of a trial, 22-year-old Kenneth Pitts pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, armed assault with intent to rob and carrying a firearm without a license in connection with the shooting death of 18-year-old Bryce T. Finn on June 6, 2017, at Finn’s Rainbow Drive home. The youth was killed just days after he graduated from high school.

In an investigative report in 2019, WHAV noted the unexpected Delaware connection. Haverhill resident Joseph Maxwell “Max” Benner, who prosecutors say planned to rob Finn of marijuana, enlisted help from Pitts, a childhood friend in Delaware where Benner previously lived. Benner’s mother, Erika J. Maczuba Benner of Methuen, had served as the deputy treasurer for the state of Delaware before resigning amid scandal in 2013.

In a later police interview, Benner said the result was “things going badly.” Police have said Benner knew Finn through his younger brother and sold him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

Besides Pitts, Benner’s alleged Delaware accomplices were Nicholas Mandato and Thomas J. Warner, who were also were indicted in 2019 by an Essex County grand jury. Warner, Mondato and Benner are scheduled to appear at a hearing on Feb. 18 in Salem Superior Court.

After buying duct tape and other supplies, Benner drove the three Delaware men to Finn’s house in Mandato’s car. According to police, “Benner said that he knew that Pitts had a gun with him.” Benner said he remained in the car, while the others approached the back door at Finn’s home. He told police he could not see the door from the car, but “heard a single gunshot.” The other men raced back to the car, telling Benner that “Finn pulled a gun and confronted them.”

Benner drove them back to his grandparents’ Haverhill house and the Delaware men left.

Essex County Assistant District Attorney Christina Ronan planned to present the robbery scenario at trial “The altercation outside of Bryce Finn’s home lasted seconds, but its impact will last forever,” Ronan said.

Salem Superior Court Judge Thomas Drechsler imposed the jointly recommended sentence of 23 to 25 years in state prison followed by five years of probation.

Former Delaware state Treasurer Chipman “Chip” L. Flowers Jr. told WHAV in 2019 that the murder might have been prevented if officials down south acted on his concerns about the Benner family.

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett said in a statement the case remained unsolved for more than a year and thanked Massachusetts State Police Sgts. Robert DeMeo and Brian O’Neill and Haverhill Police Detective Rick Welch for their diligence in solving the case.

Pitts was represented by Attorney Steve Weymouth.  He has 1,307 days of jail credit.

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