Police Make Arrest in 1975 Cold Case

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

It's been nearly 34 years since Linda Benson and her daughter Kelley were found stabbed to death in their Grand Junction apartment. Thursday, this 1975 cold case got very hot, after police confirmed they arrested a man in connection to their murders.

Grand Junction Police Department spokesperson Kate Porras said in a news release that even though an arrest had been made, the investigation is ongoing, so they could not release his name.

(Note: all direct quotes used in this story were taken from an 11 News in-depth report on the case from November 2008.)

"Complete unbelief," said Linda Benson's mother Barbara Rippy as she recalled how she felt after learning about the murder. "I had just seen them."

It may be more than three decades after her daughter and granddaughter were found dead, but in an interview with 11 News last November, Rippy says it's something that haunts her to this day.

"Some things you just do not forget -- you never forget them," said Rippy.

On July 24, 1975, police found the bodies of 24-year-old Linda Benson and 5-year-old Kelley Ketchum, stabbed multiple times. Officials believe the killer climbed up an AC unit behind their building, hopped onto their balcony, then went inside their home. They say there were no witnesses.

"This is probably one of the most gruesome cases in the last thirty years in this community," said Commander Greg Assenmacher of the Grand Junction Police Department.

11 News ran an in-depth report about the case in November 2008. Then, officials said since 1975, the Grand Junction Police Department, Mesa County Sheriff's Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and even the FBI were involved in trying to crack the case. No arrests were ever made.

But investigators said the recent creation of a CBI cold case team and advancements in DNA technology gave them new hope.

"DNA has been in our system forever," said Larry Bullard, a retired officer who has been helping the Grand Junction Police Department with the cold case investigation. "We're just now learning how to go back, analyze it, compare it and use it forensically."

In February 2007, officials say they turned evidence from the case over to CBI for DNA profiling. There's been no word from police if that is what led to the arrest.

During our interview with Rippy, she made an emotional plea to the community.

"If anybody anywhere knows anything that could help us bring some closure to myself and the rest of our family, please come forward," said Rippy.

Now, 34 years later, she may finally get that closure.

Our sister station in Denver, 9NEWS, is reporting that sources tell them investigators are looking to the possibility this suspect was involved in several other murders in Grand Junction and Denver. Grand Junction police did not confirm that Thursday.

Police Chief Bill Gardner, District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, and Assistant Director for the Western Slope Colorado Bureau of Investigation office Dave Linnertz will hold a news conference Friday at 3 p.m. at the police department. The news release indicates more information will be available at that time.

11News will continue to follow this developing story. The suspect is due in court today at 1:30 p.m. and authorities will hold a press conference at 3 p.m.

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