Details of Disappearance
Benedict was last seen in Boston, Massachusetts on March 5, 1983. At the time of her disappearance was working as a high-class prostitute, charging about $100 an hour for her services. Authorities believe she was murdered by one of her clients, William Henry James Douglas, an anatomy professor at Tufts University Medical School. A photo of Douglas is posted with this case summary.
According to prosecutors, Douglas met Benedict in April 1982 and quickly became obsessed her. He paid for her vacations and bought her expensive gifts, including a car and a house. He wrote her many letters and called her several times a day. In December 1982, he broke into her apartment, stole her answering machines and used them to intercept her phone messages.
Benedict eventually began to perceive his attentions as harassment and tried to end the relationship. On March 2, she called his wife and told her she wanted Douglas to stop calling. He didn't stop, however; the day of Benedict's disappearance, he called her twelve times.
Benedict was last seen on March 5, en route to Douglas's home in the silver 1982 Toyota he'd bought her. She has never been heard from again. The next day, a teenager found a work shirt, a women's corduroy jacket smelling of perfume, and a hammer in a trash can along Interstate 95. All the items were bloodstained, and the hammer had a single dark hair stuck to it. The teenager turned the items in to the police, and Benedict's father and boyfriend/pimp identified the jacket as hers.
Police obtained a warrant and searched the Douglas home on March 20, fifteen days after Benedict's disappearance. They found her pocketbook, credit cards and personal phone book in Douglas's closet, and he said he didn't know how they got there. The police also found a man's bloodstained jacket with what appeared to be a piece of human tissue in the pocket. In July, Benedict's bloodstained vehicle was found in New York City near Penn Station.
Douglas was charged with first-degree murder in October 1983. He was also charged with embezzling $67,000 from Tufts University, money he allegedly spent on Benedict. In April 1984, on the morning his trial was scheduled to begin, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and admitted he beat Benedict to death with a hammer in his home on the night of her disappearance. He stated he'd put her body in a dumpster in Rhode Island.
Although authorities searched the Central Landfill in Johnson, Rhode Island, Benedict's body has never been found. Douglas was later sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement, to be served concurrently with his manslaughter sentence. He was released from prison after serving eight and a half years.
Benedict graduated from the Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational School and studied for graphic design a year at the Rhode Island School of Design. She began dabbling in prostitution while still in high school, however, and turned to the career full-time after she dropped out of art school. She was arrested on prostitution charges four times prior to her disappearance.
Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved. Author Teresa Carpenter wrote a book about the murder called Missing Beauty: A Story of Murder and Obsession.