Robin Benedict, 21, was an aspiring graphic artist. High school yearbook photo left. An attractive
brunette with a winsome smile, she lived with her boyfriend, Clarence
"JR Rodgers, in Malden, 6 miles north of Boston.
At 9:40 PM on Saturday, March 5, 1983, she left a message for JR and drove to the home of William Douglas in Sharon, ten miles south of Boston. She was never seen again.
parents, Shirley and John Benedict, lived in Methuen, 30 miles north
of Boston. Although they had five children, John felt closest to
Robin. She had his dark hair, cocoa skin and high cheekbones, and
they shared an interest in photography. Robin often visited them on
weekends. On Friday, Shirley had left a message with Robin's
answering service, inviting her to come and see their new puppy. But
Robin never arrived.
A Gruesome Discovery
On Sunday, March 6, two men scavenging for returnables at a Route 95 rest stop in Mansfield south of Boston found a heavy trash bag. When they opened it, they found a woman's corduroy jacket and a man's blue shirt, spattered with blood. Also inside was a heavy hammer. It too bore bloodstains. Photo right
They went to the Foxboro State Police Barracks to
report the find. Trooper Paul Landry had another trooper bring it to him, examined the contents and shipped the bag to the State
Police Crime Lab in Boston to be tested.
The Dark Side: Robin Benedict
Despite her fresh-faced clean-cut appearance, Robin had a dark side. In
high school, one of Robin's boyfriends introduced her to a New
England Patriots player, Ray Costict. Photo right They became
After graduating from high school in 1980, Robin moved to Providence to take courses at Rhode Island School of Design. That December Costict told her he intended to marry another woman and move to Mississippi. Robin was devastated. She quit RISD and got an apartment in Boston.
On April 9, 1982, Boston PD
busted three women for prostitution. One was Robin Benedict.
In her mugshot (above), she appears serene. A detective gave her some fatherly advice. "You're gonna wind up like the rest of them. Robin replied, "Not me. I got it all figured.
parents came to the station, but she refused to go home with them.
When they got home, John broke down in tears, unable to understand
why Robin had turned to prostitution.
The Dark Side: William Douglas
At the time of Robin's disappearance in 1983, William Douglas (photo right) was a balding middle-aged man who wore horn-rimmed glasses. He and his wife Nancy lived with their teenagers, two boys and a girl, on a quiet street in Sharon, MA. Nancy, a registered nurse, worked the overnight shift at a nursing home in Foxboro. They met at SUNY in Plattsburgh, NY, and married in 1963. After a year of study at Yale, Bill began graduate studies at Brown University where he received his PhD in 1970.
Bill got a job teaching at Tufts University Medical School in Boston in 1978, and the family moved to Sharon. In April 1981, Bill won a $200,000 grant to supervise the Cell Culture Research Unit. He spent many hours working and often stayed in his office overnight.
office was three blocks from Boston's Combat Zone, an adult
entertainment district, with pornographic bookstores, movie houses,
strip joints and cheap bars. Photo left.
In April 1982, Bill went to Good Time
Charley's (below Busch sign in photo right), where prostitutes hooked up with johns. He met Robin
Benedict and quickly became obsessed with her.
Over the next year he spent hundreds of hours with her, not just for sex. He often paid her $100/hour to have coffee, go to the movies and take rides in his car with him. To pay her, he began siphoning money from his research project at Tufts University.
he wasn't with her, he stalked her. He broke into the apartment she
used as a trick pad, stole her answering machine and gave her
another one with a beeper to collect her messages when she
wasn't there. Bill kept the second beeper and monitored her messages. Thus, he knew when she would
meet her johns and sat outside her trick pad for hours. He often called Boston police and tipped them off
about prostitution activity at her apartment.
A Frantic Lover
Monday March 7, Robin's boyfriend, JR Rodgers, was frantic. He hired Private
Investigator Jack DaRosa, saying he feared that William Douglas, a
Tufts Medical School professor, might have harmed her. Robin's friend Debbie was also worried. Robin had promised to attend a
birthday party for her son on Sunday but never showed up. Debbie
phoned the Douglas home. Nancy Douglas told her Bill was at a
conference in Washington, D.C. and gave her the address of his hotel.
Debbie relayed this information to JR, who gave it to PI DaRosa. DaRosa flew to Washington and questioned Bill. He admitted Robin had been at his house the previous night. Asked if his wife was home, he said, "No. I was alone. He said Robin left at midnight to visit someone else. He told DaRosa that JR Rogers was a pimp and Robin was a prostitute, but he insisting that his relationship with her was strictly professional.
DaRosa asked about the bandage on his forehead [See gash near hairline, left], Bill claimed he hit
his head on a kitchen cabinet. DaRosa left and called JR. Alarmed by
the bandage, JR urged him to question Bill again. This time Bill said
he had been mugged at the Amtrak Station.
Asked if he had an argument with Robin before she left, Bill said, "No. My wife was there when she left at midnight.
These inconsistencies worried DaRosa.
On Sunday night, a frantic John Benedict called JR Rogers and asked if he'd seen Robin. "She's been missing for three days, JR said. He began to cry and said he feared Bill Douglas might have harmed her. Thus, it came as a shock when Bill called John Benedict. He'd heard Robin was missing and said she had been at his house Saturday night but left at midnight. When John asked if he had an injury on his forehead, Bill said, "No, I don't.
John went to Methuen police to report Robin missing. However, they said Robin was an
adult. Only after 48 hours would they broadcast an alert. When a week passed and Robin hadn't contacted them, John went to Channel-7 in Boston and asked them to run a story about his missing daughter, Robin Benedict.
On Sunday March 13,
using John's favorite photo [left] which he had taken, Channel-7 ran a story asking for information about
a Missing Beauty, Robin Benedict, who lived in Malden.
Using a copy of the same photo, John went to the Boston Herald and asked them to publicize the story, too.
A Crucial Tip
By Monday March 14, Trooper Paul Landry knew the stains on the items found in Mansfield were human blood. Another trooper saw the Channel-7 report, called Landry and told him about a missing girl from Malden. Landry called Malden police. They said Robin's car had been reported missing by her boyfriend, who claimed she had visited William Douglas in Sharon on March 5. She had been wearing a tan jacket like the one found at the Mansfield rest stop.
Landry asked Robin's parents, JR Rogers and PI DaRosa to meet him at the State Police Crime lab in Boston. When JR saw the jacket he shouted, "No! No! That's hers! Landry suspected that JR was Robin's pimp and asked if he had killed Robin. JR denied it, saying they "planned be married. He admitted Robin was a prostitute and described her problematic relationship with Bill Douglas, who was obsessed with her. He said Robin had gone to his house Sharon on March 5 to tell Bill she did not want to see him again. Landry believed him.
March 19, Trooper Paul Landry and State Police Detective James
Sharkey went to the Douglas home in Sharon [photo at right] with two other state troopers, a state police chemist
and a police photographer.
They showed Nancy the bloodstained man's shirt and asked if it was Bill's. She said it looked like one he owned. Shown where it had been mended with blue thread, they asked if she might have mended it. "Yes, she said. "That looks like my sewing.
was less cooperative. He said the bloodstained hammer wasn't his.
Told he was a suspect in Robin's disappearance, he said she had been there on March 5th but left at midnight to visit someone else. Meanwhile,
other troopers were searching the house.
In the master bedroom they found two of Robin's coded address books, pink panties, phone
bills addressed to Robin Benedict, an answering machine beeper, and a brown
camera bag stuffed with papers. When shown these items, Bill claimed he
had "no idea how they got in his house.
Meanwhile, the chemist found a blue windbreaker, tested it for blood and got a positive result. Asked if it was his, Bill said, "It looks like mine, but I'm not going to say it was mine.
Annoyed, Detective Sharkey said, "If you killed Robin, would you please tell us where the body is so she can have a decent Christian burial? If you have any principles, any concern for your wife and children, will you do the right thing and lead us to her remains?
Bill replied, "I didn't kill her, and everything I told you is the truth. I wish I could help you more.
left the Douglas home convinced that William Douglas had murdered
Robin Benedict. Proving it would be another matter.
A Murder But No Body
Norfolk Assistant District Attorney John Kivlan [photo below left] was assigned to the case. Although human brain matter had been found in the windbreaker taken from the Douglas home, Kivlan had a problem. He had a prime suspect and a treasure trove of circumstantial evidence. But no body.
assigned state police troopers to watch the Douglas home day and night. Early one morning,
a trooper snatched a trash bag in front of the house.
In it was a note telling how to charge phone calls to a credit card assigned to Bill's Tufts Medical School account. Using phone records obtained from Tufts, police traced the calls made on March 5, the day Robin disappeared, and subsequent calls made from the phone. However, Kivlan was reluctant to charge Douglas with Robin's murder without a body. He suspected the body might be in Robin's car, but that was missing, too.
The Missing Toyota
July 16, New York City police found Robin's 1982 silver Toyota (photo right) abandoned not far from Penn Station. Using the VIN number, they
learned the car had been reported missing in Malden, MA, with the
notation "owner possibly involuntary missing.
An NYPD detective opened the car door and smelled a foul odor. He found no body, but there were stains on the vinyl matting and dried blood around the wheel well. He notified Malden police. Upon learning of the find, Kivlan sent a trooper to NYC to bring the Toyota to the Foxboro Barracks.
More Problems for Bill Douglas
Officials at Tufts Medical School had their own concerns about Bill
Douglas. Not about murder, about the way he spent funds from the
grant he had received. For each hour he spent with Robin, he paid her
$100, and over the past year he had spent hundreds of hours with her.
He had also written checks to Debbie, Robin's friend, had her
cash them and give the cash to Robin, who used the $15,000 for a down
payment on the house in Malden. After an extensive investigation, Tufts accountants determined that
Douglas had embezzled $67,000 from the project. Tufts officials canceled the
project and fired him.
By October 1983, ADA Kivlan had enough damning evidence to convene a grand jury. Although Nancy Douglas and her children refused to testify, on October 28, 1983, a judge issued a warrant to arrest William Douglas, charging him with murder of Robin Benedict. He was ordered held without bail.
Monday, April 23, 1984, more than a year after Robin's disappearance,
the trial began. Then came a surprise announcement.
Douglas wished to change his plea. Prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to second degree murder on one condition. He had to confess to the crime and tell them where he dumped Robin's body.
At the sentencing, the judge said in part: "In reading Mr. Douglas's confession, one must wonder about the kind of man who has been able to live for more than a year knowing he committed such a crime. This is not a man led astray by beautiful young women. This is a devious, mature man, an intelligent, calculating man who knew what he was doing. Mr. Douglas apologized to the Benedict family, but an apology is not enough. The judge sentenced Douglas to the maximum penalty under the law: 18 to 20 years in prison.
Where is Robin Benedict?
In his recorded statement about the events of March 5, 1983, Douglas said he and Robin argued, he lost his temper and hit her head with the hammer. He then wrapped her body in blankets, put it in her Toyota and drove to Providence. There he put her body into a dumpster behind the apartment where he and Nancy had lived while he attended Brown University.
Armed with this information, detectives located the company that collected trash from the dumpster. It had been taken it to the Central Landfill in Johnston, RI. However, this is the largest dump in New England, and an entire year had passed. Since then millions of tons of refuse had been dumped there. The landfill manager said in his professional opinion, trying to locate a body amid all that refuse was "foolhardy. After much soul-searching, Massachusetts state officials decided they could not undertake a search that might cost millions of dollars.
Abandoning any hope of finding Robin's body, Shirley and John Benedict held a funeral mass for Robin in Methuen. Hundreds of neighbors and friends attended. JR Rodgers sat beside Robin's parents. In 1984, her parents filed and won a wrongful-death suit against William Douglas, giving them claim to any of his future earnings.
Nancy and her three children continued living in the house in Sharon. In 1986, Bill Douglas got a letter from Bonnie-Jean Smith, 44, a recent divorcee. She felt sorry for him, and they began a relationship. The next year, Bill divorced Nancy, his wife of 23 years, and assigned all his possessions and custody of his remaining minor child to her. On July 7, 1987, Bill Douglas and Bonnie-Jean Smith were married by the prison chaplain. After serving less than 9 years, Douglas was released from prison in 1992. He and his second wife live somewhere in New England.
Robin Benedict is still missing.
If you'd like to leave a comment, please do. This was a complex case. For a more detailed account see Missing Beauty, a book by Theresa Carpenter, published in 1988
Sources: Missing Beauty, Theresa Carpenter, 1988
Robin Nadine Benedict (1961-1983) - Find a Grave Memorial
The Charley Project: Robin Nadine Benedict
Murder Charges Against Tufts Professor Rocks Medical School, Dudley Clendinen, NY Times, November 20, 1983.