A London man charged with the murder of his parents last week will face possible indictment next month.
Laurel District Judge Wendell "Skip" Hammons determined that probable cause existed in the case against 40-year-old Joseph Lee Benge following a preliminary hearing on Tuesday. Benge is charged in the double murder of Johnny and Mary Benge, pastors of Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in London.
Laurel Sheriff's Detective Taylor McDaniel told prosecuting and defense attorneys that Laurel Dispatch received a call around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15 regarding three bodies found in a home off Tomcat Trail in eastern Laurel County. The caller, Johnny Ray Benge - son of the couple, discovered their bodies that afternoon after he had been unable to reach them by phone and stopped by to check on them.
Johnny Ray Benge called Laurel Dispatch after he spotted the bodies of the couple in the living room of the house, McDaniel testified.
"He thought there were three bodies because a grandchild lives with them, but there were only two," he explained. "The grandchild had gone to the mother's and wasn't home. Johnny is a pharmacy tech and was out that way delivering medicines and he just stopped by while in the area to check on them."
Mary Benge was sitting in a recliner, while Johnny A. Benge was lying in the floor. Both had been shot. The couple's son Johnny told investigators at the scene that he believed his brother Joseph had killed their parents, with McDaniel stating that Johnny Ray Benge said his brother had a long history of drug abuse.
Joseph Benge is charged with two counts of murder, first-degree robbery and theft of an auto. After the couple was shot, Joseph Benge left in a white Ford Taurus that belonged to his mother. The robbery involved Joseph taking money that belonged to the Benge's church that they kept in their home after the Sunday services. McDaniel said Johnny Ray Benge told investigating officers where the couple kept the money as they conducted a search of the home. Some firearms were also missing.
McDaniel said the younger Johnny Benge provided the phone number for his brother and that tracing of the phone number led police to Joseph Benge's location in Mayfield, Ky.
Joseph Benge was taken into custody by Kentucky State Police in Mayfield later that night.
"He went to the hospital there for an anxiety attack," McDaniel said. "Someone there recognized him from the news reports and called the police."
Benge had blood spatters on his shoes, shirt and pants and the gun used in the deaths of Johnny and Mary Benge was located in the passenger seat. Two rifles and other firearms were also found in the vehicle.
McDaniel also said that it was originally believed that a knife had been involved in the attack on the couple because Johnny A. Benge had "a slice across the chest."
"The Medical Examiner's Office said it was from a gunshot," he explained.
Joseph Benge remained silent during the preliminary hearing that was broadcast from a room in the Laurel County Correctional Center, where he is held under $500,000 cash bond.
After hearing the evidence in the case, Hammons ruled that probable cause existed and ordered Joseph Benge to appear in Laurel Circuit Court on Oct. 16 for possible indictment.