The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

December 13, 2013

Update: Charges filed in Carthage murder

Police: Suspects were seeking drugs

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Updated: 3:08 p.m.

Brian and Kelli Benefiel, the suspects in the slaying of 87-year-old Carthage resident Raymond Ritchhart, have been charged with first-degree murder, burglary and armed criminal action.

The Jasper County prosecutor filed the charges this afternoon with respect to the killing of Ritchhart, believed to have taken place Saturday night.

The Benefiels, taken into custody Thursday night on suspicion of first-degree murder, reportedly confessed to entering the victim’s home with the intention of stealing his prescription medication. They told police they beat and stabbed Ritchhart to death, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Associate Circuit Judge Richard Copeland signed the arrest warrants sought by the prosecutor and set  bond on the Benefiels at $500,000 each.

 

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Updated: 1:06 p.m.

Police say a couple arrested in the slaying of 87-year-old Raymond Ritchhart have admitted beating and stabbing him to death.

Carthage police now say Ritchhart was killed Saturday night inside his home at 1237 Douglas Court in Carthage. A neighbor discovered his body Monday night and called 911.

Brian S. Benefiel, 48, and Kelli L. Benefiel, 27, were taken into custody Thursday night on suspicion of first-degree murder.

A probable-cause affidavit submitted in the case alleges: “They both stated that they entered the house, and while inside, they beat Raymond Ritchhart with a wooden blunt object and stabbed him, causing his death. Both Brian and Kelli stated that they went to Raymond’s residence to steal prescription medication.”

Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan expressed sympathy for the victim’s family in a news release and credited the Tri-State Major Case Squad with helping solve the case and make the arrests. He said detectives worked more than 150 leads in the first 60 hours of the investigation.

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Two suspects were arrested late Thursday night in connection with the murder of 87-year-old Carthage resident Raymond Ritchhart.

Arrested on probable cause for first-degree murder were Brian S. Benefiel, 48, and Kelli L. Benefiel, 27, both of Carthage.

Ritchhart, a retired farmer and World War II veteran, was reported to have been discovered deceased inside his home on the west side of Carthage about 6 p.m. Monday by a neighbor checking up on him.

The neighbor, who called 911, thought he might have fallen, according to an initial news release from police. But police soon determined otherwise and announced that Ritchhart had died “under suspicious circumstances.”

Ritchhart’s wife, Margaret, resides in a nursing home in Carthage and he had lived alone at 1237 Douglas Court in recent years. He was well-liked in the community where neighbors were in a habit of checking on his well-being, according to police.

Court records show that the Benefiels have been in the process of getting a divorce and that she sought a protection order against her husband in 2009. Brian Benefiel’s current address is listed on court records as 1229 Douglas Court. Her address is listed on court records from October as 1129 S. Main St. in Carthage.

Police have not revealed how Ritchhart was killed, but Carthage police Chief Greg Dagnan told the Globe that the victim was acquainted with the suspects.

The victim’s son, Denny Ritchhart, who farms near Jasper, told the Globe that he tried to visit his dad every week. He said his father had been recuperating from some recent surgeries but was able to get out and about on his own. He spent much of his time visiting his wife and seeing friends at the Can Do Senior Center.

The son said he had called his father more than once on Monday but was unable to reach him.

 

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