Monday, June 09, 2008

Serial predator suspect admits sex with two victims

by Jim Walsh and Michael Kiefer - Jun. 9, 2008 03:23 PM, The Arizona Republic

Accused serial predator Trent Christopher Benson admitted to Mesa police that he had sex with two women who later turned up dead and ran over one of them after dumping her naked body in the middle of a street.
But Benson stopped short of confessing to the murders, according to court records released Monday after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge granted The Arizona Republic's request to unseal court records that were sealed when the suspect was arrested.
Benson also is charged in two rapes. One of those victims said she was attacked from behind by two Asian men, was drugged with a rag soaked with a chemical, and lost consciousness, according to the records. She awoke to discover she was being sexually assaulted by one man while being filmed by a video camera mounted near the ceiling. She said there were several monitors in the room and could see herself on them. The assault was interrupted by screams. “The two males left her to attend to a screaming voice. This brief lapse gave the victim time to gather her clothes and flee the residence'' during the Aug. 16, 2007, attack, according to the report. There was no elaboration in the report about the screams.
Benson, 35, was linked by police through DNA evidence to the sexual assault of four women, two of whom were strangled. The report specifies that both victims, Alisa Marie Beck and Karen Campbell, were murdered by ligature strangulation.
Benson recalled picking up Campbell near Main Street and Extension Road in Mesa and said he became enraged when she asked for more money than the agreed upon price for sex acts, according to the court records. He claims to have memory loss and waking up to find her dead. He grabbed her by the wrists and dragged her to his car. He then told police that he drove to a nearby side street.
“As he sped away, he heard a thud which he believes may have been from running her over,'' the court records said. Campbell was found dead Oct. 14, 2007.
Benson also admitted he had sex with Beck, who he picked up after he left a stripper bar. He told investigators he got angry with her during the sex act and that he choked her until she was unconscious.
He also said he grabbed her hair and hit her head against the steering wheel. Beck was found dead Nov. 1, 2004, in a Mesa alley.
The last attack attributed to Benson was the abduction and sexual assault of a Phoenix woman near Seventh Street and Osborn Road on Nov. 4. The victim told police she was attacked from behind by an Asian male, the report said.
“He subdued her by placing a cord over her neck then strangling her before being drug into a white car. She lost consciousness and does not recall what occurred at the time of the attack,'' the report said. Police said the woman was dumped near the spot where she was abducted and appeared to have been left for dead.
But it was the Aug. 16 attack, in which the victim escaped, that first led police to Benson. A “street source'' sent police to a pub in north Mesa, where they talked to Benson and discovered he drove a white car. Police discovered he had a history of prostitution arrests and put him under surveillance.
Police learned that Benson and his brother, Andrew, were living together at a north Mesa townhouse complex. They tracked Trent Benson to the Water and Ice store he owned in the 400 block of North Lindsay Road and saw him smoking outside throughout the day. Officers seized a cigarette butt outside the building.
Andrew Benson has not been named as a suspect and has not been arrested in the case.
The cigarette butt proved critical, because police found DNA evidence that linked Benson to all four attacks.
Officers served search warrants on Benson's house, car and business. They found handcuffs and took 15 videotapes, a video camera and computer equipment, among other things.
The court documents indicate that prosecutors believe that they eventually will seek the death penalty in the case.
Police wanted to keep the records sealed to protect the investigation, including information about a potential accomplice.

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