Slay victims’ family thanks police

Bensons’ relatives applaud tenacity of investigators in case

The family of a Grand Junction mother and daughter stabbed to death in 1975 thanked Grand Junction police Monday for their “methodical, tenacious and exemplary work” that led to last week’s arrest of a serial rapist in the slayings.

Jerry Louis Nemnich, 64, of Longmont was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 24-year-old Linda Benson and her 5-year-old daughter, Kelley.

“In speaking for the entire family, let me start by saying we are cautiously optimistic, although extremely encouraged with the recent events and developments; this has been a long time coming,” a statement from the family began.

Several immediate family members live in the Grand Valley.

Family members specifically credited retired investigator Doug Rushing, current Cmdr. Greg Assenmacher and retired Lt. Larry Bullard for their roles in reviving the investigation into the 34-year-old murders.

They thanked Rushing, who worked the original investigation, “for not letting go of your belief that this case must be solved. ... You have lived this case personally as if this was your own family.”

Assenmacher created a cold-case unit to reopen old murder investigations, including the Benson case, a year and a half ago. The family called him a “godsend to this investigation” and credited him with giving it “the wings and leverage it needed to succeed.”

The family also thanked Bullard, a former officer with the Grand Junction police and Mesa County sheriff’s departments who “worked on this investigation for over a year without a penny of compensation. The wisdom and guidance you brought to this undertaking has been remarkable. Family members asked for privacy, noting that the investigation and Nemnich’s arrest “has re-awakened some very old emotions, and painful times in our lives.”

The family also addressed Linda and Kelley Benson in the statement, saying “we know you can hear us, we have not forgotten you.”

“Linda, your contagious laugh, intoxicating smile and charming sense of humor made the world a better place just because you lived in it. Your love and zest for life has stayed with us our entire lives, and you will be deeply missed until we see you again. We will never forget the gifts and blessings you brought to us all.”

Family members recalled a time when Kelley was playing in her grandmother’s garden, plucked the flowers her grandmother had just planted and gave them to her.

“You looked up with your big blue eyes and inquisitively asked, ‘Grandma, how can God love you when He can’t hold His arms around you?’ Well Sunshine, God has been holding His arms around you for 34 years now ... We miss you both, we have not forgotten,” the statement concluded.

Steve Benson, Linda’s husband and Kelley’s father, found their bodies inside the family’s apartment on July 25, 1975. Linda and Kelley had each been stabbed multiple times.

Police have released few details on what led them to Nemnich. But Assenmacher and Bullard indicated last summer that evidence from the crime scene, including blood from an unknown person, was shipped off to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing.

Police spokeswoman Kate Porras said detectives have received eight tips via a tip line police set up last Friday in announcing Nemnich’s arrest.

“When you set up those tip lines, you never know how many (tips) you’re going to get,” she said. “We’re now reviewing all of them to see which ones we need to follow up on.”

Mesa County sheriff’s spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said Nemnich is in maximum security at the Mesa County Jail.

“He’s been a very normal inmate, no disruptive behavior or anything like that,” she said.


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