A 16-year-old girl who reported she was raped by a Michigan man was later kidnapped and killed in the man’s attempt to thwart a sexual assault trial, according to federal authorities.
The girl was killed in 2017, authorities said, but her death didn’t put a stop to criminal proceedings.
Quinn James, the man she accused of raping her, was convicted of four counts of criminal sexual conduct in 2018, court records show. Then in 2019, the Grand Rapids man was convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
But James wasn’t the only man responsible for the teen’s death, according to a Nov. 14 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan.
James had hired Gerald Bennett, of Detroit, “to help him kidnap and murder” the girl, authorities said.
“James and Bennett communicated for several weeks before abducting (her) from a bus stop on January 24, 2018,” according to the release. “Her body was found days later in a wooded area in Kalamazoo.”
A defense attorney who represented Bennett did not provide a statement to McClatchy News.
‘Faking his incompetency’
While both men were charged with murder in state court, the case against Bennett was dropped after he was found “not competent to stand trial,” officials said.
But investigators were convinced Bennett was competent, authorities said, and he was then arrested on a federal criminal complaint in June 2022.
A forensic psychologist conducted a competency evaluation and found Bennett had faked being incompetent, according to the release.
“While Bennett was in custody awaiting his competency hearing, he allegedly solicited another murder for hire in an effort to silence a key witness,” authorities said. “Bennett also allegedly admitted to inmates in the jail that he was faking his incompetency.”
On April 18, a federal judge ruled Bennett was competent to stand trial, according to the release.
He was charged with conspiracy to commit murder for hire resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, kidnapping of a minor victim and solicitation to commit a crime of violence, records show. Jury selection for his trial was scheduled for Feb. 26.
Bennett was admitted into a hospital to get cancer treatment on Nov. 7, according to the release. But the next day, authorities said “his health declined substantially and he was placed on life support.”
Bennett, 63, died of medical complications on Nov. 13, authorities said.
Cheyvoryea Gibson, special agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan, said Bennett’s case would not be heard in court “due to his untimely passing.”
“The allegations in this case were heinous and I deeply regret we will never present the evidence against Mr. Bennett in open court,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in the release. “At best, our efforts can secure only a measure of justice. We can’t bring (the teen) back. But the truth-telling role of a conviction matters. I am grateful for the investigators who worked for years to secure justice and my heart remains with her family as they mourn the loss of one they dearly loved.”
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