Everett tenant convicted of murder in landlord murder

EVERETT – After a two-week trial, a jury convicted an Everett tenant on Friday of second degree murder for killing his landlord last year.

Howard Benzel, 67, and his wife owned a building in the 2100 block of Madison Street. On March 28, 2020, Benzel visited the building to speak with Frank Walton.

His wife of more than 40 years told police they had had issues with Walton, 42. He lived in the business unit that he rented to sell second-hand goods. The Benzels had no plans to renew his lease.

Benzel was supposed to be back in Mukilteo to take him for a ride at 1pm. Worried, his wife went looking for him around 4 p.m.

Passers-by discovered human remains two days later about a mile north of McMurray Lake in Skagit County. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the remains as Benzel’s and ruled that his death was a homicide caused by blunt trauma.

On the witness stand, medical examiner Dr J. Matthew Lacy did what he considered a conservative estimate of the number of times Benzel had been struck: 25. An injury to Benzel’s cheek corresponded to a hammer blow. , Lacy said. He said there was also evidence of possible strangulation and bleeding on Benzel’s brain.

A Snohomish County Superior Court jury found Walton to be the culprit.

Walton’s prosecutors and defense attorneys presented closing arguments to the jury on Thursday. Assistant District Attorney Elise Deschenes presented evidence linking Walton to the murder, including video footage of him driving in Skagit County on the day of the murder, his DNA on various objects and Benzel’s blood in Walton’s unit.

“He made the decision to kill Howard,” Deschenes told the jury. “If you don’t believe he maybe decided before it started, he decided on the second move, on the third move, on the fourth move, on the fifth, on the 15, on the 20, on the 25 and probably a lot more. after. He decided and followed through on his intention to kill Howard Benzel.

Walton’s public defender David Roberson argued that there was little evidence of premeditation and that the defendant had no motive to kill Benzel. He also said prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Walton murdered Benzel.

“There is no question that the senior detective in charge of this case … has conducted a full and thorough investigation,” said Roberson. “And even after that, you still wonder what happened to Howard Benzel.”

Jurors heard from more than 30 witnesses during the trial before Superior Court Judge Anna Alexander.

Walton declined to testify Thursday. Flanked by his defense lawyers, he often wrote on sheets of white paper when testifying.

The jury began deliberating around 9 a.m. on Friday.

Prosecutors charged Walton with first degree murder last April. At trial, jurors had four options. They could have convicted Walton of the original charge of first degree murder, or less serious charges of second degree murder or first degree manslaughter. Or they could have acquitted him. They found him guilty of the second most serious charge.

The jury also found Walton guilty of tampering with physical evidence, a misdemeanor.

As the verdict was delivered shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday, Benzel’s family members cried in relief.

Walton had no previous felony convictions, according to court documents. In 2013, a woman applied for a protective order against Walton, alleging he had strangled her and threatened to “turn off my lights.” A judge granted the restraining order.

An obituary describes Benzel as a dedicated father of two and a grandfather who was “reliable, funny, smart, honest, driven – the list could go on. ”

“He died too early in life and had so much more to accomplish,” the obituary said.

Walton has been in Snohomish County Jail since his arrest last year.

His sentence is set for December 13.

Jake Goldstein Street: 425-339-3439; [email protected] Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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