John Warren Deetz

Deetz, circa 1988; Ralph Benson

  • Missing Since 12/30/1988
  • Missing From Spokane County, Washington
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Male
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 05/01/1950 (74)
  • Age 38 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'5, 175 pounds
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Brand new tractor-trailer truck (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Black hair, brown eyes.

Details of Disappearance

Deetz was last seen on December 30, 1988. He lived in Fulton, Illinois and was employed as a truck driver for Westside Transport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His last delivery was at the West Coast Grocery Co.

Deetz called his employer from the Broadway Truck Stop in Spokane County, Washington on December 30, 1988, after he made his delivery. He also called his wife to say he would be home soon. He has never been heard from again. His trucking supervisor reported him missing.

Less than two years after Deetz disappeared, Ralph Howard Benson was sighted driving his truck, which was brand new and worth $100,000. It had been repainted. Benson was a self-employed long-distance trucker who traveled across the country.

In early 1991, Deetz's truck was found on Benson's property in the Los Angeles, California area. The 1988 license plate was in Benson's home south of Davenport, Washington; it appeared new and unweathered.

Authorities believe Benson operated a "chop shop," taking apart stolen tractor-trailer rigs and selling the parts. He was never charged in connection with Deetz or his vehicle, however.

In 2003, Benson was convicted of murdering a Washington state fuel tax auditor; he'd shot the man in the head and dismembered his body. Investigators stated he's a person of interest in Deetz's disappearance and other missing persons cases and homicides.

He died in prison in September 2004, at the age of 64, less than one year into his sentence. A photo of Benson is posted with this case summary.

Deetz is described as a responsible man who was dedicated to his family and his job. He was carrying company credit cards at the time of his disappearance, but never used them. He left behind three children.

He has since been declared legally dead and his wife has remarried. Foul play is suspected in his case, which remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Spokane County Sheriff's Office 509-625-4041

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 18, 2012; details of disappearance updated.