As Brian Benedict faces court hearings, Sept. 13, 2009 continues to mark a historic day at UC Irvine: the first shooting to ever occur on UCI’s campus. On that Sunday evening, many of UCI’s graduate students living at Verano Place faced an unpleasant surprise.
A neighboring graduate student, Sara Ellis, heard the noise but didn’t realize there was a threat until a window above her head broke.
“I heard what I thought were firecrackers. Then the window’s safety glass hit me on the head,” Ellis said.
These were the effects of the multiple bullets that Brian Benedict aimed at his ex-wife, Rebecca “Bekki” Benedict.
They shared a 4-year-old son and a troubled divorce of three years. Brian Benedict also had a history of attempted suicide.
Sara Emami, the District Attorney’s Spokesperson, said that there was evidence that Brian Benedict was swinging a hammer at his ex-wife during an argument in his complex before the shooting.
The violence grew shortly thereafter. He fired his gun several times at Rebecca Benedict, striking her once as she attempted to escape down an adjacent path outside of the apartment.
Witnesses saw Rebecca Benedict fall to the ground and run toward the parking lot as Brian Benedict held her at gunpoint.
The son witnessed the violence in the apartment but was unharmed. Rebecca Benedict died from the gunshot later that night in the hospital.
Officials are currently investigating previous disputes between the two that may have provoked the homicide.
Brian Benedict had been trying to gain custody of his child since his divorce and was said to have briefly visited UCI’s on-campus police in regards to information about child custody.
In addition to this, Brian Benedict’s estranged wife appealed to the family court to increase his child support obligation.
In Brian Benedict’s court hearing, Judge Nancy Pollard scrutinized his abilities for proper judgment. He was asked why he left his 4-year-old out to play by himself, about the toxic mildew present in his bathroom and the unguarded firearm illegally present in his apartment.
In reported court exchanges the suspect defended his standing on these issues with what the judge claimed was irrelevant information.
Many times during his hearing it was said that Brian Benedict blamed his late wife. He made irrelevant claims about specific incidences in which Rebecca Benedict would appear unfit as a guardian.
In response as to why he allowed his son to play independently while he attempted to divert the attention to his ex-wife, Benedict told the judge about one incident when Rebecca Benedict allowed her son to ride his bike without a helmet.
He made another attempt to appeal to Judge Pollard by claiming that Rebecca Benedict had urged him to commit suicide and that she admitted to as well.
A week before the shooting, the family court judge doubled his child support payments to $920 per month. At the same time, his salary dropped from $80,000 when he worked for Northrop Grumman Corp to $26,000 as a research assistant in 2008, when he decided to return to school and continue his graduate studies at UCI in particle theory. The financial burden of the increased child support payments fared poorly with his already low income and posed an endangerment to his academic endeavors.
If convicted, Brian Benedict will be held on a sentence of 50 years to life in state prison and a $1 million bail.