A young man wanted for questioning by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department after he apparently left the scene of Katie Wilkins' fatal drug overdose in Malibu last spring was arrested on the Pepperdine University campus today, where his father, Andrew Benton, reigns as university president.
Sheriff's investigators told LA Weekly last month that 27-year-old Christopher Benton's family hired a fancy lawyer as soon as Wilkins was found dead. Although surveillance video shows he was hanging out with Wilkins on the night she died, the younger Benton has refused to talk. “I have my own opinions as to what he did, and none of them are very good,” said Detective Tim O'Quinn. “But I can't go to a D.A. with them.”
The 27-year-old's arrest today, however, appears to be unrelated to that case:
Benton junior, who has reportedly been living at his parents' famous on-campus home (the one with the “spectacular view”) after a stint at rehab, was arrested around 11 a.m. this morning on suspicion of making “serious” threats against his family, says Pepperdine spokesman Jerry Derloshon.
The threats were credible enough that family members and law enforcement thought he might go through with them, Derloshon confirms.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore tells the Los Angeles Times that the threats were first reported yesterday. But when sheriff's deputies showed up on campus to investigate, the suspect was nowhere to be found.
When they finally nabbed President Benton's son today, reports the Times, they also got him on suspicion of “being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun” — seeing as deputies “found a gun they believe Benton discarded on a nearby hillside and the ammunition in his car.”
We've contacted Detectives O'Quinn and Schoonmaker, the investigators on the stalled Wilkins case, to find out if this unrelated Benton development has the potential to help move along that mystery. (Aka, if they might try to question him while in custody, or if these new accusations against him might tie him to the overdose.)
Pepperdine President Andrew Benton issued the following statement in response to the Wilkins controversy:
“In this case I am just Andy, father of someone who knew Katie and her family. Pepperdine has absolutely nothing to do with this. To suggest otherwise is merely sensationalism. My wife and I hold the Wilkins family in very high regard and are deeply pained by their loss. Illegal substances are a scourge on society and they have hurt many wonderful families in Malibu. If anything, I hope this devastating situation will underscore the damage that drugs have had on some of our best and brightest. I don't really know anything. Period. I would like to be helpful, but I don't really know anything beyond what I am reading in the press.”
Derloshon, university spokesman, says that in an effort to protect students and staff, Pepperdine personnel “fully cooperated with law enforcement” during the Benton manhunt and takedown this morning.
On a previous LA Weekly story about Wilkins' death, an anonymous commenter alleged: “In my teenage years I witnessed Chris Benton sell, and administer drugs and take them openly with groups of friends, in one particular case AT his parent's house ON the Pepperdine campus. It is clear that Andy Benton has never had a role as a real “parent” in Chris' life… . His downward spiral began years ago and it will continue until he is behind bars.”