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       November 12, 2015 5:58 PM

 Agonizing Uncertainty


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Agonizing Uncertainty


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.


Her 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 lovers.


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.”


Her 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.


His 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.


When 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


By 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.


When 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.


Worried Parents


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.”


Alarmed, 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.


The Interrogation


On 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.”


Bill 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.”


Police 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.

He 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


On 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.


The Murder Trial


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.


On 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.


The Aftermath


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.




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COMMENTS


[ Posted by Millcent broderick, November 13, 2015 12:48 PM ]
     What is wrong with people? they cause themselves so much pain over really insignificant stuff. oBsessing over a prostitute is not something a wise man would do...bit I know better than to admit to that on paper. That is passion missplaced. The player I have the biggest problem with is Bonnie Jean Smith. she deliberately involved herself with a man who killed a young woman. why???? anyway I will take another look around the neighborhood...for the kller next door!! Thanks

[ Posted by admin, November 13, 2015 1:05 PM ]
     Thanks for the comment! And I agree. The woman who married this man seems as creep as he is.
Susan


[ Posted by Kris, November 28, 2015 5:34 PM ]
     Thank you for the thorough blog on this case. I remember following this closely back when it was in the news papers, being among the public hoping that she would turn up alive some where. Sadly, because of this psycho, that was never to be. I find it disgusting how much this killer attempted to assassinate her character in order to garner sympathy for himself. I hated how he changed his sledge hammer story, trying to claim she attacked him first. Not according to his recorded confession, nor quoted statement in the paper back then. She had no motive to even being a hammer, but he obviously had the "If I can't have you, no one will" mentality going on. This wasn't about a guy obsessing because she was a prostitute, he would have been obsessed with her no matter what she did, and could some day become the same way towards another young lady.

[ Posted by admin, November 29, 2015 10:25 AM ]
     Thanks for the comment! The case probably comes as a surprise to those who weren't living in Massachusetts then. Sadly, it now seems long forgotten. Yes, William Douglas was indeed a sociopath, and Robin's occupation had little to do with his obsession with her.
Susan


[ Posted by Paul Landry, December 07, 2015 12:34 PM ]
     The real tragedy of this case was that there was MORE than enough evidence to convict Douglas of First degree, pre-meditated murder, yet he was allowed to plead out to manslaughter, and serve only 9 years. Prostitute or not, she was a human being, a daughter, a sister-an aunt-she deserved more than having her head crushed, and her body thrown in a trash barrel.
Paul Landry, Ma. State Police, Ret.


[ Posted by admin, December 07, 2015 12:54 PM ]
     Thank you for the comment, Paul. I totally agree. She deserved better, and her parents were left with only uncertainty. As I understand it, you worked very hard to help solve this case. Thank you for your efforts.
Susan Fleet


[ Posted by Kyle, April 11, 2016 4:34 AM ]
     Hi, I have three points to add: (1) Robin and Clarence Rogers *pretended* to be boyfriend & girlfriend; but the reality is that he was her pimp. He used the same strategy to transform Robin into a hooker that he had used on several other promising young women. (2) The brain matter found in Douglas' windbreaker's jacket was from *deep inside* a human (undoubtedly Robin's) brain, leaving medical examiners with no doubt that the person iy came from had been killed. (3) Bonnie Jean Smith Douglas has been dead for at least a decade.

[ Posted by admin, April 12, 2016 5:20 PM ]
     Thanks for the comment. I agree that Rogers used Robin for his own gain; however, judging by published transcripts of police interviews, he cared about her and told police about his fears that Wm. Douglas had harmed her long before police considered Douglas the prime suspect in her disappearance. No disputing that the brain matter found in his jacket was Robin's. I did not know that Bonnie Jean Smith Douglas was dead. In my research for the post, I searched for information about her. How and where did you find this information? Do you know what has become of Robin's parents?
Susan


[ Posted by Kyle, April 13, 2016 2:12 PM ]
     Hello again. If you do a Google search for "Bonnie-Jean Douglas, obituary," the document will come up -- along with some extremely emotional (& religious) messages from William. Also photographs -- which suggest she helped him lose a lot of weight -- this time without the assistance of cocaine.

It's true that Clarence Rogers hired a private investigator to follow & interview Douglas. It's also true that he exhibited emotion on seeing evidence she had been killed. My view is that this man is extremely manipulative, and that he only cared about Robin insofar as she supported him. He was already using his devious strategy of turning girls (some of them of perfectly good background) into prostitutes before Robin died -- in the home she paid for! Is this an indication of care for Robin?

Robin's mother died several months ago. As far as I know, John Benedict is still alive.


[ Posted by admin, April 13, 2016 3:59 PM ]
     Thanks for the additional info! Wow! just accessed the obit. How bizarre. I must update the blog to add this information. Also sad to hear Robin's mother died.

As for Clarence Rogers, I agree that he was an extremely manipulative person. Of course, she essentially paid for the nice home they were living with the [embezzled] money Douglas gave her. And one could argue that if he was so worried about Douglas harming her, he might have tried to prevent her from going to his house that night. Do you know what has become Rogers?

Susan


[ Posted by admin, April 13, 2016 4:02 PM ]
     Forgot to mention, one of the reasons I became so interested in this case was that I was very familiar with most of the locations along Rt. 95. Also for several years I lived in Randolph where Robin's friend/fellow prostitute rented an apartment. And because I taught at Brown U for several years, I knew exactly where the dumpster was where he dumped (or said he dumped) Robin's body.

[ Posted by Kris, November 25, 2016 2:24 PM ]
     I tried to research Clarence JR Rogers, but could not really find anything. I do think in some twisted form, he did have a care about Robin, probably more like a lust rather than love, considering that he's who groomed her into prostitution and thus ruined her life. In that sense, he contributed to her death. Had she never known him, she probably would not have gone down this dark path to wind up in the situation she was in with Douglas.

When looking at Bonnie Jean Douglas's obituary, I immediately noticed she had a daughter named Robyn, making her, Bill's step daughter. I wondered if he even had it in him, when looking at Robyn, to think about the Robin he murdered so long ago, who's character he trashed as well. I wonder if he ever thinks of her father, and the pain he has, not having a viable grave to visit all because Bill treated her remains like trash. I wonder if having a step daughter of the same name (different spelling) had served to be like a haunt for him, to remind him that he's the reason that another young Robin never got to experience a future like he did, and some day have a husband of her own to love as much as he apparently loved his second wife. I wonder he is even capable and human enough to feel that level of remorse for the Robin he murdered, or did he fool himself with his own self victimization stories about how she was the bad guy, and he was the poor fool.


[ Posted by admin, November 27, 2016 5:55 PM ]
     Thanks for the comment, Kris. Yes, it does seem like a bizarre coincidence that his step daughter's name was Robyn. I agree with your assessment. The man had no conscience. It's difficult to find information about the "players" at this point. Someone told me Robin's mother has died. I don't know about her father. A very sad case.

[ Posted by Jess, December 30, 2016 11:14 AM ]
     I've been looking at this case a lot since I saw a show on the ID channel. Anyway, I looked up Bonnie-Jean's obituary and the first comment that came up was "will miss u" from Robin Benedict Boston,ma and that creeped me out a bit. Anyone else see that?

[ Posted by admin, December 31, 2016 8:47 AM ]
     Thanks for the comment, Jess. I have not seen the comment on Bonnie Jean's obituary. Very strange, obviously someone trying to draw attention. This was a very sad case. Douglas was a stone-cold killer. Difficult to understand how or why this woman married him.
Susan


[ Posted by Kris, January 01, 2017 11:07 PM ]
     Jess, I had not notice that, but I agree with Admin, some one probably trying to bring attention to the case.

Admin, yes, Robin's mother did pass away. I always felt terrible for her, she always felt that Douglass was hiding info on this crime. Even worse she had to stop putting Robin's photo in the newspaper memorial section due to abhorrent people sending her copies of the photo with nasty words written on it. Tried to leave you a link to her obituary for you to view. Just copy this sentence into google and the obit should come up for it "METHUEN – Ellen Shirley Benedict, 80 of Methuen passed away Sunday May 10, 2015 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston after suffering a brief illness with her family by her side. "


[ Posted by admin, January 12, 2017 2:18 PM ]
     Thanks for the additional information, Kris. This was such a sad case. That's why I posted the blog. So that more people would be aware of it.
Susan


[ Posted by Jacqi, February 14, 2017 4:48 PM ]
     I was so sorry to hear about Robin's death and so sorry for her parents and the rest of her family. If she was not involved with JR Rodgers, this would have probably never happened. It is even more sad that Bill Douglas did so little time for this horrendous crime. My heart goes out to her family.

[ Posted by MeLadyV73, April 04, 2017 1:31 PM ]
     This is a very tragic story; but the only people to blame for the outcome are the victim and her killer. Her boyfriend/pimp only did what she allowed him to do. She had her own mind and her own freedom of choice: Robin was young and pretty and smart. She wasn't poor and destitute. Vanity, ego and material things are often the cause of escorting/prostitution amongst younger women with options; very different from middle-aged women who are drug addicted or genuinely desperate to feed themselves or their kids. I get so annoyed when people say '...if he or she hadn't met ---- none of this would have happened.' Whatever happened to personal accountability? No-Robin did NOT deserve to be murdered, but she shouldn't have repeatedly misled a man who was obviously obsessed with her--just to make $. And that professor--just a disgrace to his family, his profession, to mankind period.

posted by SUSAN FLEET   November 12, 2015 5:58 PM  MULTPLE CRIMES  



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