KINGMAN - Mohave County Superior Court Judge James Chavez accepted a plea agreement endorsed by the defendant, Robert Ronald "Bull" Benjamin, on Thursday, and handed him a punishment of natural life in prison.
According to the agreement, Benjamin pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony, and the state agreed to dismiss several other felony charges against him, including first-degree murder, theft of means of transportation, theft and misconduct involving weapons.
In the agreement, the state made it clear Benjamin would receive a sentence of natural life in prison - Benjamin will not be eligible for commutation, parole, work furlough, work release or release from confinement on any basis.
Since the state had dropped the option of seeking the death penalty against Benjamin, the natural life in prison is the most severe punishment Benjamin could have received.
"That's the best deal we can offer … considering the heinous and cruel nature of those crimes," Deputy County Attorney Derek Carlisle said. Carlisle said the defendant could have chosen to go to trial and hand the state the burden to prove his guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Even if he had been convicted of all the charges against him, the worst punishment he would have received would have been natural life in prison, Carlisle said.
"I won't speculate on anything. It's totally up to the defendant and his attorney to make that decision (to accept the offer or not)," Carlisle said.
Benjamin had argued loudly with his court-appointed attorney, Daniel DeRienzo, before the sentencing. Benjamin seemed unsatisfied with his attorney's suggestion to accept the plea offer. But the two gradually lowered their voices as the conversation went on, and Benjamin finally agreed to enter the courtroom and accept the plea agreement.
DeRienzo was not immediately available for comment. He had argued in earlier hearings that his client's mental condition was questionable when he was interviewed by Sheriff's detectives. Benjamin admitted in those interviews that he had killed the two victims, Andrea Lynn Eklund, 34, and Robert Al Reichenbacker, 44, both of Kingman. They were found shot to death in the early morning hours of June 20, 2005, at a residence in the 4500 block of Marilyn Drive.
Kingman Justice Court issued the warrant for Benjamin charging him with two counts of first-degree murder, and Hoover Dam Police detained Benjamin at the dam as he attempted to cross from Nevada back into Arizona two days later.
Witnesses told investigators they had seen Benjamin at the residence prior to the 1:47 a.m. call of gunshots that sent deputies and Kingman Police officers to the scene.