Police arrest man in connection with 1975 stabbing

Grand Junction police have arrested a man in connection with the 1975 stabbing deaths of a Grand Junction woman and her 5-year-old daughter, linking him to the bloody scene using DNA evidence.

Police on Thursday refused to release the name of the man suspected of killing 24-year-old Linda Benson and her daughter, Kelley. He was arrested in Colorado on Wednesday, is now in custody in Mesa County Jail and will make his first appearance in court this afternoon.

Several media outlets reported the suspect is believed to be responsible for several other murders around the same time in Denver and Grand Junction.

Linda Benson’s brother, Mark Himmerite, told The Daily Sentinel on Thursday afternoon that he learned late Wednesday that an arrest had been made. He said at that time he had not spoken with police and did not have any more details.

“We’re encouraged at this point that they feel like they have made an arrest,” said Himmerite, who said he was swamped in meetings as a general contractor with Berry Brothers General Contracting Inc. when he received the news. “Hopefully, we can get some closure.”

The arrest came as the result of Grand Junction police and retired law-enforcement officers working for the past two years on several unsolved homicides, including the Benson case, dating to the 1970s.

Daily Sentinel news articles at the time of the murders indicated Steve Benson, Linda’s husband and Kelley’s father, discovered the bodies inside the family’s apartment at 1300 N. 21st St. on July 25, 1975.

Steve Benson had been working as a pipe fitter in Hayden for several days and entered the apartment through a balcony door because he didn’t have a key. He found his wife’s nude body at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom and his daughter’s body on the floor of a connecting bathroom, articles at the time indicated.

Autopsies revealed the mother and daughter were each stabbed eight times in the chest.

The apartment where the Bensons were found “was a horrific scene,” said Jim Alvillar, a Grand Junction lawyer who was at the scene as a deputy district attorney. “It was tragic.

There was a young woman who had obviously fought, and then there was a dead little girl.”

Police, prosecutors and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation formed a task force in January 1976 to investigate the murders of the Bensons and 19-year-old Debra Tomlinson, who was killed five months after the Bensons. The group disbanded three months later for lack of leads.

The Benson case has been cold for more than 30 years. Then, in 2007, Grand Junction police Cmdr. Greg Assenmacher, who oversaw investigations at the time, led a group that began digging into a number of cold cases.

At the top of the list: Linda and Kelley Benson.

In an interview with the Sentinel in July, Assenmacher pointed to that case as one that “really fell through the cracks.”

Assenmacher said he brought in a group of investigators who had previously worked the Benson case and other law-enforcement veterans to pore over police reports and re-interview witnesses. Authorities also passed along evidence from the case to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing in the hope that new technology would match a suspect to the evidence.

One of the officials working those cold cases is Larry Bullard, an officer who worked for years for both the Grand Junction Police Department and Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

“I’ve got some hope we’re going to clear some of these (cases) with technology,” Bullard said last July.

Police said they will hold a news conference at 3 p.m. today to provide more information on the case.

Staff writer Gary Harmon contributed to this story.


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