Returning to the Unsolved


Today marks 36 years that family and friends of Sarah “Jeanette” Benson continue feeling emotional, all because her homicide remains unsolved.

Back in 1981 homicide cases were handled differently. We have much more technology and better law enforcement strategies now that help. Something that wasn’t immediately released at the time of this homicide were the details of the suspect and his vehicle. Those details could help bring this family justice.

Uncovering the details of Sarah, known by “Jeanette,” Benson’s homicide is the first step to lead.

“As many years have passed i think our best hope is to refresh the public’s memory on the type of vehicle that police were looking for at the time and a suspect description at that time,” Sullivan County Sheriff Clark Cottom said.

On January 2nd 1981, neighbors to Jeanette Benson’s Northern Sullivan County home noticed a car in the drive way that was out of place. Jeanette was away from her home shopping at the time.

Three witnesses later described a “robin egg” blue Plymouth Valiant. They described the car as shiny and very clean which lead police to believe it wasn’t very old. One witness said the four door vehicle was missing hubcaps.

A neighbor observed a man get out of the car, knock on the Benson’s door, loiter a bit, then return to the car. The suspect is described as a white man, tall, thin, possibly in his 20s, the man was also wearing a vest.

“It was a very short amount of time later that Mrs. Benson returned and the intruder was inside the home,” Sheriff Cottom said.

These unsolved crimes do weigh on the sullivan community, we’re here at the newstand, a local diner where many people come to grab lunch.

It’s where we find Sullivan native, Deborah Vicars. Vicars says she’s a recent widow and living alone for the first time brings about some worries.

“So this does bother me, I hope it’s not somebody who’s going to come back and get obsessed with doing this every so often for the thrill of it,” Vicars said.

Although an unsolved case with nearly 40 years under it’s belt, seems unlikely to be solved…

“Undoubtedly there is at least one person out there who knows exactly what happened in this case and you know, your conscious sometimes over powers your desire to get away with a crime,” Sheriff Cottom said.

Tips are being accepted at any time at the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department or with Indiana State Police, law enforcement rely on community tips in order to solve these crimes.

Jeanette Benson was survived by her husand, who’s since passed and her two daughters who still live in Sullivan County.

Her homicide case is a joint effort with Indiana State Police and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department. Within the past year, evidence with her case is being re-examined with today’s technology like Touch DNA Analysis.

Just last month, we re-visited Sullivan County’s other unsolved homicide. The murder of 85-year old Sullivan farmer, Lowell Badger.

The 4-year anniversary for Badger’s homicide was December 8th. He was found on that day, shot in his home where he lived alone. Among items stolen from his home were a gray safe and a black, 46 inch Sony television.

“Our family needs closure, our family needs to be able to move past this crime and to move past this horrible tragedy and until we can get a person convicted of committing this it’s awful hard to move forward,” Son, Alan Badger said.

If you have any information on either of these homicides, you’re urged to call Indiana State Police or the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department.



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