We think that we know the people around us. We assume that they are more or less like us, with the same general desires and fears. We take leaps of faith and invite strangers into our lives and they become our friends, coworkers, and loved ones.
But can we ever truly know other people? Everyone has their secrets, some more than others. One ex-Marine’s entire life would come to be defined by his secrets…
On the outside, Arthur Bennett was a model citizen. The 40-year-old was a married man, a father of three daughters, and had reached the rank of Staff Sergeant after many years of service in the Marine Corps. Then one day, Sergeant Bennett was accused of doing something that put his image into an entirely different light.
The Marine was facing a court martial for allegedly molesting another soldier’s child while he was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma Arizona. If found guilty, he could face a sentence that might include up to 15 years of confinement in addition to a dishonorable discharge…
Not A Huge Surprise
Because of the dark future that possibly lay ahead for him, what happened when Sergeant Bennett was on leave before his trial didn’t come as that big of a surprise to many. After an intense fire completely destroyed his trailer, a body was found inside.
The fire, which had burned the trailer to the ground, was accelerated by a propane tank that had been placed inside. Because the body inside was so severely burned, it was difficult to identify. But the trailer and the truck parked in front were both registered to Bennett and he’d also been seen in the area shortly before the fire. Investigators used that information to determine that Bennett had been killed in an apparent suicide…
Bennett’s family were devastated at the loss of their husband and father. The stress and uncertainty of the allegations levelled against him were replaced by the shock and grief of his death. Despite the unresolved charges pending against him, the military held a funeral for the Staff Sergeant with full military honors.
But Bennett’s family’s grieving process would be interrupted just as it begun. Shortly after the funeral, Bennett’s wife Amelia got the surprise of a lifetime when the Sergeant showed up — alive…
Bennett told his family that the military had faked his death in order to give him a new identity, Joseph Benson. Like something out of a spy movie, he had been given a new mission as a secret government operative used to assassinate drug lords.
The family of the “deceased” Bennett was flush with cash after receiving $200,000 in life insurance. “Benson” told his family that the military wanted him to have that money in order to help him get started with his new identity. They took that money and purchased a home in the small town of Hurricane, Utah…
Under the Radar
For three years, the family lived quietly in the town while “Benson” did his covert work. His previous life was left completely behind until a shadow from his past came back to haunt the ex-Marine.
Ugly rumors began to circulate around Hurricane that Benson had some inappropriate relationships with young people. The fact that he worked with teenagers at the local high school’s drama department motivated police to look into these rumors to see if they were true…
House of Cards
One Halloween, police arrested Benson on charges of molestation. Upon taking his fingerprints, Benson was quickly identified as Sergeant Bennett who had supposedly died 3 years prior. Just like that, the house of cards Bennett had built came crashing down.
There was no covert mission for which the military had provided Bennett with a new identity. The truth was, he had faked his death to escape the court martial. Now, in addition to facing the original molestation charges, two of his daughters and a neighbor’s girl were saying he’d abused them as well…
The Burned Man
To compound things further, there was also the matter of Bennett faking his death. He faced a slew of new charges, not least of which was murder. While the body found when Bennett had burned down his trailer wasn’t his own, it definitely belonged to someone. And forensic evidence was clear that the man who’d burned was alive at the time of the fire.
They Didn’t Talk
But if Bennett had been abusing his family, why hadn’t they revealed his secret and turned him in to the police? They knew that his previous charges of molestation had never been resolved, even if they couldn’t prove his recent abuses. Why didn’t they act?…
Threatened Into Silence
The reason was that Bennett had told his family that the military would kill them all if his cover as an operative was blown. He’d also told his daughters that if the police found out about his abuse, the little girls would be put into foster homes and their family would all be arrested. They apparently believed him.
With over a dozen different federal charges against him, Bennett could be sentenced to decades in prison or even the death penalty. Rather than pay for his crimes, Bennett made a familiar move, this time for real. Three months after his arrest, Bennett used his bedsheets to create a noose and hanged himself in his jail cell…
Fool Me Once…
With what he’d done to his daughters and the fact that they’d already buried him before, Bennett’s immediate and extended families were less than excited to arrange a second funeral for him. In fact, they didn’t even claim the body, leaving Bennett to be buried without a service in a pauper’s cemetery.
It Doesn’t Stop There
With Bennett buried, you would think that his family would be able to move on and begin reconstructing their lives. But Bennett was still causing trouble for them from beyond the grave. He had lied about the government wanting his family to have the money from his insurance as well as his veterans benefits…
You’re In It Too
Because his family had believed that lie, they became complicit in Bennett’s fraud. When combined, the amount they’d taken in life insurance and other benefits was more than $300,000 dollars they shouldn’t have had.
Taken To The Grave
As for the mystery man who’d been killed in the fire when Bennett faked his death, police were left baffled. There was no physical evidence pointing to his identity. The one man for sure who knew who he was was Bennett and he took the secret to the grave with him.