Charles Smith


Charles Smith

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Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Domestic dispute - Rape
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: July 28, 1997
Date of birth: 1944
Victims profile: His girlfriend, Cindy Benson, 34; Benson's daughter, Erica Benson, 16, and Benson's sister and brother-in-law--Jymme Murphy, 28, and James Murphy, 27
Method of murder: Shooting (.44 Magnum handgun)
Location: LaSalle County, Illinois, USA
Status: Committed suicide by hanging himself the same day

On July 28, 1997, Charles Smith, 53, fatally shot his ex-girlfriend, 34-year-old Cindy Benson in her hometown of Joliet.

Then he drove with her body 36 miles to her sister and brother-in-law's home and killed three of her relatives and raped another.

Charlie hanged himself after the raping a 13-year-old girl and unsuccessfully trying to strangle two other children.

A neighbor said the quick-tempered Charlie was upset that his ex-girlfriend's family disapproved of their relationship because he was black and she was white.

Joliet Man Kills 4 In Family, Hangs Self

June 29, 1997

What started as a deadly domestic dispute early Saturday in Joliet ended with four people slain and the apparent killer committing suicide in Marseilles, a rural town of about 5,000 in LaSalle County.

Authorities said that Charles Smith, 53, of Joliet fatally shot his girlfriend, Cindy Benson, 34, in the passenger seat of her red Pontiac Grand Prix between 2 and 3 a.m. He then drove her body 36 miles west to the house of Benson's sister in Marseilles, about 70 miles southwest of Chicago.

There he parked the car behind the house and went inside, where authorities said he shot and killed Benson's daughter, Erica Benson, 16, and Benson's sister and brother-in-law--Jymme Murphy, 28, and James Murphy, 27.

After shooting them, Smith raped a 13-year-old girl staying with the Murphys and tried to strangle the Murphys' 18-month-old and 7-year-old sons, who were found unconscious in the home, authorities said.

Smith, who authorities said had prior arrests on weapons charges, then apparently took his life by hanging himself with an orange extension cord near a pool table in the family's unfinished basement.

Spared in the rampage was a 4-year-old daughter of the Murphys whom Smith apparently did not notice. She slept through the rampage.

Jymme, a homemaker, and James, an electrician, were found in their bedroom; Erica Benson was found in a second bedroom.

Neighbors in Marseilles were awakened about 4:45 a.m. to the cries of the 13-year-old girl, who had run out of the house to a next-door neighbor with a cordless phone in her hand. She was crying and pacing in the driveway.

" `They shot . . . Jymme and he strangled the kids and he raped me,' " a neighbor said, repeating the girl's words.

"She was shaking and crying. She was terrorized," said another neighbor who did not want to be identified.

The Murphys lived on Walnut Street, a close-knit hilly neighborhood in Marseilles so quiet, as one neighbor put it, "that if somebody's dog barks, you look out to see what it is barking at."

But no one heard the shots Saturday morning.

Smith had parked the Pontiac beneath some trees and behind the Murphys' pool, where relatives and kids had gathered Friday night for a party, authorities said. He easily walked into the house, since it is the kind of neighborhood where nobody locks their doors.

He shot two of the victims once and two of them more than once with a .44 Magnum handgun, said LaSalle County Coroner Jody Bernard.