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Boater faces homicide charge in lake collision

Paul J. Bennett

Paul J. Bennett

GAINESVILLE — Paul Bennett, the man believed responsible for the deadly boat crash that claimed the lives of two young Buford brothers, now officially faces homicide charges.

A Hall County grand jury indicted Bennett this week on charges of first-degree homicide by vessel, boating under the influence and refusing to surrender aid. The action comes more than a month after Bennett, 44, allegedly drove his fishing boat into the pontoon carrying Jake Prince, 9, Griffin Prince, 13, and several others across Lake Lanier.

Bennett was believed to be drunk and left the scene of the accident. Jake Prince was found drowned shortly after the crash, which occurred late on June 18. Griffin’s body wasn’t found until nine days later.

Bennett, who owns a hair salon in Johns Creek, was arrested at about 1 a.m. on June 19, but faced only boating under the influence charges at the time and was released on bond.

If convicted, Bennett would face a minimum three-year sentence with a maximum of 15 years, according to Georgia law.

Melissa Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources — which is investigating the crash — said rangers were still looking into the case’s “final forensic information.”

“This incident is still an open case that will be tried in the Superior Court in Hall County,” Cummings said. “Our rangers are still completing our final report.”

Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks said no bond had been set as of Friday. Wilbanks said Bennett’s first appearance hearing is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this article