BRADENTON, Fla. – A Florida man accused in 2012 of attempting to kill a sex worker walked into the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office last week and confessed to strangling another woman to death the year before.
Benjamin Wade Moulton, 43, of Sarasota, is charged with first-degree murder in the December 2011 death of Nicole Rose Scott, 29, also of Sarasota. He is being held without bond in the Manatee County Jail.
Scott was slain just days after the sex worker, who was nine months pregnant, alleged that Moulton had tried to kill her. Moulton was arrested in February 2012 and charged with attempted murder, sexual battery and aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.
The charges were later dropped, according to Sarasota County court records. The reason the case was abandoned was not clear.
Sarasota police investigators wrote in 2012 that they found the pregnant sex worker after Moulton’s name came up in connection with Scott’s murder. Manatee County detectives brought her to their attention after questioning her about Scott, who was also a sex worker.
Both women worked along North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
“She told them her story and description of her subject’s car and person,” Sarasota detectives wrote in an arrest affidavit. “This male and mode of operation of her incident matched their description of their suspect (in the homicide).”
The woman picked Moulton out of a photo lineup, authorities said. Records show he drove a red 2003 Hyundai at the time of the crimes.
‘I couldn’t live with the guilt anymore’
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office officials said that Moulton walked into the department’s operations center the afternoon of Sept. 29 and told deputies he wanted to confess to a crime he’d committed nearly 10 years ago.
Surveillance footage released by authorities shows Moulton being dropped off at the operations center and walking inside. A moment later, he and a deputy step back outside to talk.
Moulton, who is wearing a face mask, appears to explain why he is there. As he speaks, he appears to repeatedly take deep breaths, causing his shoulders to slump.
According to authorities, the alleged killer said his crime had weighed on him over the past decade.
“He told detectives he had since ‘found Jehovah and couldn’t live with the guilt anymore,’” investigators said in a news release.
A Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said it was just a regular day when Moulton showed up and confessed “out of the blue.”
“That almost never happens,” the spokesperson told People magazine. “It’s comforting to know that the secret Benjamin Moulton was holding inside has finally come to light.”
A criminal complaint states that a passing motorcyclist called 911 just before 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2011, to report finding a body. The man told a dispatcher he’d pulled over to urinate and spotted Scott lying dead in a ditch.
“She was partially nude, with her pants (belt attached) around her right ankle,” the complaint states. “She had a sock on her right foot, under the pants, and a sock partially covering her left foot. She also had a black shirt around her neck.”
Scott’s purse, shoes and bra were found a few feet away, as was a folding knife.
An autopsy determined that Scott had been strangled. She also had visible trauma to her face from an apparent beating.
Moulton confirmed last week how Scott died, along with information that authorities had kept confidential throughout the investigation.
“Moulton met with homicide detectives and explained that he killed (Scott) in a fit of rage, and (he) provided other details about the case that were never released to the public,” the news release said.
Moulton’s name had surfaced early in the homicide investigation as a potential suspect, according to authorities. He was questioned shortly after the murder but denied involvement.
Detectives lacked the evidence to link him to the crime.
Read the arrest affidavit in the Nicole Scott homicide below.
Scott, who had grown up in and out of foster homes, had a history of drug addiction and multiple stints in jail. Authorities said Moulton was believed to be one of her prostitution clients.
“But we’re unsure of a motive,” Detective Sgt. Pete Rampone told the Bradenton Herald in 2012. “It could have been random. He could have felt like she ripped him off. It could be someone who thinks people like that are less worthy, which isn’t true.”
Mike Harrison, Scott’s cousin and former foster parent, talked to the newspaper about her death in 2011.
“Nikki’s death was exactly how she lived, and it’s terrible,” Harrison said.
Court records did not indicate if Moulton said why he flew into a rage and killed Scott, but it apparently wasn’t the first time he’d choked a woman.
‘Needed some money for the baby’
The Sarasota County sex worker who reported Moulton to authorities in February 2012 said it was either Dec. 1 or 2, just days before Scott was slain, that she encountered Moulton outside the Flamingo Motel and agreed to sex.
“She said she was nine months pregnant at the time and needed some money for the baby,” a criminal complaint states.
The woman told Sarasota police detectives that she had Moulton drive to a secluded spot in the parking lot of what she believed was a Marriott hotel. As they drove, the windows of the car were down, but Moulton had locked the doors.
“She said when they arrived in the parking lot, her window rolled up,” the court document alleges.
As she and Moulton discussed a price, they both became agitated, the woman told detectives. She told him she wanted the money up front.
The alleged victim said Moulton got on his knees on the driver’s seat and appeared to be checking his pockets for cash, muttering, “Where is it?”
That is when he struck, according to the complaint.
“She said all of a sudden he grabbed her neck and started choking her,” the document reads. “She said he was squeezing so hard that she couldn’t even scream. She said all she could think about was her baby and that she didn’t want to die like this.”
Read the court records in the Sarasota case below. Editor’s note: The document contains graphic details of a violent crime.
The woman told investigators she eventually passed out. When she awoke, she was lying almost completely naked on the ground, her face and lips bleeding and swollen from an apparent beating.
She told the detectives there was semen on her body from being raped, according to the complaint.
The woman said she ran to the nearest person she could find and had them take her to a Comfort Inn, where she knew one of the guests. She said she didn’t initially go to the police out of fear.
“They decided not to call the police because she had outstanding warrants and was afraid she would have the baby in jail and didn’t want DCF (the Department of Children and Families) to take him away,” the document reads. “She left for a rehab facility a day or two after the incident.”
The woman said she “told all the girls on the street about the incident so this wouldn’t happen to them.”
At the time of his arrest in the Sarasota case, Moulton had additional criminal cases pending, including one in which he reportedly broke into a woman’s home. According to court documents, the woman awoke around 3:20 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2012, to find Moulton standing next to her bed.
She initially thought the shadowy figure was her son.
When she spoke, she heard Moulton say, “I’m going to be sick,” the records state.
The woman said she jumped from the bed, at which point Moulton ran, dropping a cigarette lighter on the bedroom floor.
He had removed at least one knife from her kitchen drawer. The knife was later found on the kitchen counter, authorities said.
Moulton shoved the woman as he ran from the house. He was found about 90 minutes later, hiding near another home in the area.
He later pleaded no contest to armed trespassing, a third-degree felony. He was sentenced to probation.