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Suspects in death of a Carthage man appear in court - KOAM TV 7

Suspects in death of a Carthage man appear in court

Raymond Ritchhart Raymond Ritchhart
Brian Benefiel Brian Benefiel
Kelli Benefiel Kelli Benefiel

Updated December 19, 2013:  A Carthage couple is arraigned in court for their role in a home invasion that ended with the death of an 87-year-old man.

It's the initial court appearance for Brian and Kelli Benefiel.  The 48-year-old and his 27-year-old wife appeared by video conference in Jasper County court Thursday morning.

The Benefiel's are both charged with first degree murder, first degree burglary, and armed criminal action for the death of Raymond Ritchhart, who was found dead in his home on Douglas Court in Carthage.

Both suspects have plead not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors say the Benefiel's went to Ritchhart's home earlier this month looking to steal prescription medication.

Authorities say they beat the 87-year-old with a wooden blunt object and stabbed him to death.

 

Updated December 13, 2013 at 4:30 PM:  Two suspects are charged in the death of a Carthage, Missouri man.  Brian Benefiel, 48, and his wife, Kelli Benefiel, 27, are now charged with first degree murder and burglary, and armed criminal action.

The arrest took place after an investigation by the Carthage Police Department and the Tri-State Major Case Squad into the death of Raymond Ritchhart, who was found dead in his home on douglas court Monday evening.

According to police, the couple went to Ritchhart's home last Sunday evening looking to steal prescription medication.  Upon entering the home, they beat the 87-year-old with a wooden blunt object and stabbed him to death.

Both Benefiel's remain behind bars at this time, with bonds set at $50,000 each.

 

Updated December 13, 2013 at 11:42 AM - Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan says two suspects entered a Carthage home to steal prescription medication, and beat and stabbed the man who lived there.

Chief Dagnan issued the following statement late Friday morning:

Yesterday at 2300 hours we arrested two people for the 1st degree murder of Ray Ritchhart.    Those arrested were Brian Benefiel and Kelli Benefiel.   The affidavit asking for charges to be filed is below.

 

On the evening of 12/07/2013, Brian and Kelli Benefiel went to Raymond Ritchhart's home located at 1237 Douglas Court, Carthage, Jasper County Missouri.   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.

 

I would like to express my extreme sympathies to the family of the victim.  Our investigation showed that the victim was a well respected member of the community who had served his country well.   I would like to express my appreciation to the Carthage Police Department for their hard work and dedication to the quick resolution of this horrible crime.  Every member of our department, no matter what their level or assignment within the department contributed greatly and performed exceptionally.

 

This case was solved in great part due to the activation of the major case squad.  The case squad worked over 150 leads within 60 hours.   Those agencies that sent Detectives or Officers to this activation were:

 

Jasper County Sheriff's Office

Missouri State Highway Patrol (DDCC, Patrol and lab)

Newton County Sheriff's Office

Cherokee County Sheriff's Office

Webb City Police Department

Kansas Bureau of Investigation

Pittsburg Police Department

Joplin Police Department

Carthage Fire Department

 

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Updated December 13, 2013 - Two suspects have been arrested in the death of a Carthage, Mo. Man. 

Brian Benefiel, 48, and his wife, Kellie Benefiel, 27, were arrested on probable cause of first degree murder.

 
The arrests took place after an investigation by the Carthage Police Department and the Tri-State Major Case Squad into the death of Raymond Richhart, 87, who was found dead in his home on Douglas Court Monday evening.

 
Preliminary autopsy results indicated he was murdered.

 
Carthage Police say the suspects had no relation to the victim.

 

Updated December 11, 2013 - The Carthage Police Department says the preliminary results of an autopsy show 87-year-old Raymond R. Ritchhart, of Carthage, was murdered.

On Monday evening neighbors were concerned they had not seen Ritchhart in a while, so they called 911.

When police arrived at his home at 1237 Douglas Court, they found Ritchhart dead.  Police determined he had died under suspicious circumstances and sent his body for autopsy.

Carthage Police is conducting multiple interviews in the investigation.

 

Updated December 10, 2013 at 4:21 PM CST:  Police say a man found dead yesterday died of suspicious cause.  The body was turned over to the Jasper County Coroner's Office, and an autopsy was scheduled for today.  We talked with police to hear what they are saying about their investigations.  We also met with some residents in the community who say fear has now entered their neighborhood.

Jerry Simmons, a nearby resident to the incident, says he's lived in the community for 16 years.  He believes the victim, 87-year-old Raymond Ritchhart, has lived at 1237 Douglas Court for about 13 years.

Simmons says Ritchhart was a well-known and well-liked man.

"It's a middle class neighborhood.  Very nice.  Hardly any trouble there at all," says Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan.

But police say Monday evening, they received a call from one of Richhart's neighbors to check on him.

Chief Dagnan won't say how long the victim wasn't seen or heard by others.

Police found Richhart's body laying in an undisclosed room at his home.  Investigators won't describe the condition of the body when it was discovered.  Police also won't disclose if there were any signs of forced entry.

"I can't release those details, just simply because those folks that we're interviewing, obviously, we don't want to release details of the crime scene just yet," says Dagnan.

Tuesday afternoon, a Carthage police officer was monitoring what's being called a crime scene.  An investigative task force has been called in to help.  It's a group of detectives from area agencies.

"We are interviewing everybody in the neighborhood.  Family members, friends, anyone that would associate with them.  It's pretty typical.  We recreate the last 24 hours of the victim's life, and just try to see who they dealt with in those 24 hours, and talk to those folks," says Dagnan.

Jerry Simmons didn't notice anything suspicious on Monday.  With no suspects, one day after the incident, residents like Simmons are not feeling safe at all.

"It bothers my wife a lot.  I'm not gone much.  But now, I won't be gone any, probably, with her here alone.  I just hope they do come up with somebody on this," says Simmons.

Police say the victim was married, but his wife was not living with him.  Investigators are not calling the wife a person of interest in their investigation.

Watch the associated video to hear how unusual this type of incident is in Carthage.

 

Posted December 10, 2013 at 10:32 AM - NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE CARTHAGE POLICE DEPARTMENT

At 6:04 pm, 12/09/2013, officers responded to 1237 Douglas Court, following a 9-1-1 call from a neighbor reporting that the resident had fallen inside the home and was possibly deceased.  Mercy McCune-Brooks paramedics also responded.

It was determined that the resident, Mr. Ritchhart (Raymond R. Ritchhart, 87), had died under suspicious circumstances.  The body was turned over to the Jasper County Coroner's Office, and an autopsy is scheduled for today.  The family has been notified.

The Tri-State Major Case Squad has been activated, and investigation into the death is continuing.

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