By Randy Arrington
LURAY — For more than a year, 62-year-old Charlie Benfield had made Page County his new home. His father, who lived in Arlington, owned property along Clearview Road just east of Luray not far from the Yogi Bear Campground. An old house set back in the woods became his residence as he worked odd jobs as a farm hand and tried to live “under the radar.”
“People being giving…like they are in Page County, they brought him in and allowed him to work for them,” Luray Police Chief C.S. “Bow” Cook said earlier this week. “They had no clue who he was…He had integrated himself into the community and people were helping him out…but they didn’t know…they didn’t have a clue.”
In 2007, Benfield was charged with sexual misconduct with a child, who at the time was 4 years old. Due to a strong desire by the victim’s mother to not have her then-5-year-old recount the event in court, the then-46-year-old Benfield entered a plea agreement that included a plea of guilty to felonious restraint, or simply holding someone against their will. At the time, Benfield told prosecutors that he would agree to a guilty plea, as long as the charge did not require him to register as a sex offender, according to a report issued by WHSV.com
Benfield had been living in Mercer County, Missouri with the victim’s great aunt when he signed a plea agreement that carried five years of probation and slapped on an ankle bracelet. When he was told he had 24 hours to get his affairs in order before reporting to an actual prison, Benfield cut the ankle bracelet off and skipped town. That was 2008.
Last week, the Luray Police Chief got a call from “a local businessman that noticed some suspicious activity during a transaction.” When Chief Cook ran the name through a national data base, it got a “hit” — Charlie Benfield had been wanted in Missouri since 2008 for parole violations.
“I called and spoke to a detective in Princeton, Missouri…which is in Mercer County,” Chief Cook said. “And the first thing he said when I said the name was …’the great white shark’.”
One week ago, on Wednesday, March 1, Benfield’s 15-year run from the law came to an end as he was apprehended on South Broad Street. However, his general appearance had changed so much that the local police chief wasn’t sure he had the same guy that was on the “Wanted” poster.
“I didn’t recognize him when I rode up on him, and we had been told by Missouri that he may be dangerous,” Chief Cook said. “When I pulled into the business, there were two gentlemen standing there…I recognized one and then the other took off, so I said ‘That must be him.'”
As Benfield went to pull down a garage door from the inside, Chief Cook pulled it up from the outside and ordered him to the ground. Benfield complied and was arrested without incident.
His lack of a driver’s license and refusal to sign his name had drawn enough suspicion to put things in motion to finally bring Benfield to justice. Chief Cook says this type of community involvement makes policing that community much easier.
“Our community and local law enforcement have such a good relationship that they are not afraid to reach out…and that’s why we’re so successful,” he said. “When he have only three less drug arrests than the City of Winchester for 2022…and they have 68 officers, while we have 14…that is a testament to the community and their relationship with law enforcement.”
Benfield is currently being held in the Page County Jail and is scheduled to appear before a judge in the Page County General District Court on Thursday, March 9 to review the restrictions on his extradition to Missouri. According to Chief Cook, either deputies from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office or U.S. Marshalls will escort Benfield back to Missouri to stand trial for his parole violations at some point after Thursday’s hearing.
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