Southern Suspects – Chapter Ten
Daniel Warsaw’s case would be one that stuck with me forever. There was something so crazy, nearly impossible about it. The idea that a star student’s teacher would target them because he saw his sport as the enemy; that a star student’s girlfriend would want her boyfriend dead.
After nearly too much interviewing, I finally got the whole story together. It was so obvious, I felt stupid for not seeing it the moment Jack Benson stepped into my office. I knew something was off, but I couldn’t place what.
About two weeks before the crime, Daniel and Ally broke up. Daniel had told her that he needed space, and she wasn’t happy with that. So she went to vent to her usual confidant- Mr. Benson. He was always her listening ear, giving her advice with whatever problems she was facing. She figured this would be no different.
For a while now, Benson had been stealing from the concessions stand. His fellow sailing advisors didn’t know where the money was coming from and didn’t care once he said it was “from a local benefactor.” They used the funds to repair the sails on the two school boats, but immediately they were “one-upped” by the football team- there were rumors circulating the faculty lounge that new turf was going in on the field.
Benson listened to Ally, listened to every word. He asked if she wanted him to talk to him, and she said yes. He knew that the season-end football party was coming, so he made his plan for then. His plan was to kill the star player to make everyone scared. Scared to expand the football program, so there would be more money to go around for everyone else.
In the time between Ally and Benson’s talk and the season-end party, Ally and Daniel had gotten back together again. He felt bad for leaving her alone because she was “struggling,” as always. Ally assumed Benson had forgotten about the plan by then, but little did she know he hadn’t, and he hadn’t picked up on them getting back together.
When the party rolled around, Ally wasn’t having a good day. She arrived about half-way through the party even though Daniel told her she probably shouldn’t come. In a way, he was glad she did, so he could make sure she was alright. But his friends were mad because she would always show up and trash on their fun.
At some point, she saw Benson lurking in the brush behind the house the party was being held at. She started walking off toward him, and Daniel followed. That’s where it gets messy.
Daniel and Ally went all the way down to the beach before Benson came up to them. Ally said Daniel wanted to know why she seemed so nervous all of a sudden. When Benson came, they started talking until the conversation turned. It’s hard to know exactly what was said since Ally was drunk and Benson’s narrative wasn’t usually accurate, but when Benson drew his knife, Ally tried telling him it was fine and he didn’t listen. He first acted in aggression toward Ally, but Daniel defended her- ending with his slit throat. He responded by knocking Benson back into the sand before the two of them took off running in their chase. Ally didn’t know what to do, and not wanting to get anyone in trouble, she stayed quiet about it.
Benson chased Daniel about a half-mile up the beach, straight up to the school through a muddy patch. He thought he’d be able to get away since he hopped over all the fences when Jack clearly couldn’t do that, but he was wrong. Benson seized the perfect opportunity to make a statement and tackled him down right in the center of the field. He choked him out first, making sure he was unconscious before he was stabbed again in the chest. Then he left the same way he came, off into the dark night- leaving a dead teenager to rot under stadium floodlights.
It truly was a haunting story, one you don’t get all the time in a place like Jezebel Island. It drew a lot of attention even on a national level, people from across the country gathering outside the police station for any comment from me. But I wasn’t about to say a word.
Detective Bradley decided that this was a good case to end his career on. He put in for his retirement about a week after the case, and while I was rather crushed, I was excited for his replacement- Josie. We needed female blood in this department, and I was glad that I knew her already. I would have to mentor her a lot, but at least I wasn’t alone anymore. While she was a terrible office assistant, she was going to be a great detective.
Detective Sanderson was fired after Chief Barnstable found out about him being drunk on the job. As seems to be usual with corrupt individuals in law enforcement, he moved his family to the northern part of the state, and he found work again. I just hoped he had learned his lesson by now.
Chief Barnstable was impressed with Officer Stevens and his work with me on the case, so he decided to make us partners to fill Sanderson’s place. He was still a cop first, but if I was working on something, he’d come along.
Detective Blake toned down a lot upon the departure of Sanderson. He was never as bad as Sanderson in the first place, but I didn’t realize it was his peer’s comments that made him so riled up all the time. Besides, if he ever said anything offhanded to me, Stevens would be on his back right away.
Because of Ripley’s scandal surrounding his campaign funds, public opinion quickly swayed to support the Warsaw’s. I didn’t like their politics (or Ripley’s, for that matter) but I felt they deserved some good in their lives after the passing of their son. I think they had a change of heart about Daniel’s friend, Chris, as well. They ended up sponsoring him in football for the rest of his high school career. Hopefully their hearts changed toward a lot of things.
Every once in a while, I would see the Warsaw’s out and about- whether it be at a town event or merely in the grocery store. They would smile for only a second and move on their way. I knew it was their way of saying “thank you, but we aren’t over it.” They would never be over it. Even I don’t think I’ll ever be over it, but that’s just how this job works.
The night after the trial, we discovered Jack Benson was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison- no parole. Thankfully, they found Ally innocent. Stevens and I walked the beach in the dark, not daring to say a word over the breeze. At a point, we stopped to stare at the moon- full, absolutely full. We didn’t have to say a word to each other to know what we meant.
We were just baffled- baffled that there was such a big murder on such a little island; such big secrets in such a small community. And, of course, the world beneath.