Part III – The Case of Mark Scribner: “He wanted more than money. He wanted his very life.”

“When daylight came, M.K. recalled that he an C.N. left the Mobile Avenue home.  According to M.K., he vividly remembered how Benson openly bragged about the killing and said he “enjoyed it.” 

After obtaining a sworn statement from M.K. detailing his knowledge of the incident, he was asked to review the still photographs and video taken from the 7-Eleven store, and, without hesitation, M.K. pointed to the first person seen entering the store as “Kris” – later positively identified as Kris Benson – then identified the second subject as being one of the Keith brothers. 

In addition, M.K. was shown the knife that was discovered at the 7-Eleven convenience store, and he advised he could not identify the knife as having been at 527 Mobile Avenue; however, M.K. advised that the home contained numerous military or fighting-style knives.

The investigative strategy called for C.N to be interviewed independent of M.K. in attempt to verify his version of the events. 

In order to facilitate this interview, C.N. would need to be approached away from the suspects’ home.

At approximately 23:30hrs, M.K. made a controlled telephone call to 527 Mobile Avenue and an unidentified male advised M.K. that C.N. was not at the home.  At approximately 00:20hrs, M.K. was outfitted with a concealed transmitter of the type capable of monitoring and recording verbal communications and investigators drove him to a location near the Mobile Avenue home. 

With this Investigator in constant visual contact from a vantage point on Silver Beach Boulevard, M.K. was observed approaching the house at 527 Mobile Avenue.  The door was answered by a subject positively identified as Josh Keith, who advised that C.N. was not at the home.

M.K. then left the residence and was transported back to the Holly Hill Police Department.

On October 13, 1995, at approximately 11:00hrs, M.K. was again outfitted with the concealed transmitter and transported back to 527 Mobile Avenue where he would once again attempt to contact C.N. 

With this Investigator and Inv. James Patton monitoring the conversation, M.K. approached the Mobile Avenue home where he contacted C.N. 

At the time, the home was occupied by C.N., Kris Benson, K.S., Josh Keith, and a female acquaintance later identified as L.M. 

Approximately one-hour later at 12:15hrs, C.N., M.K., and L.M entered C.N.’s Ford Thunderbird and departed the residence.  With investigators conducting close surveillance, C.N. drove across the Seabreeze Bridge into the City of Holly Hill where Officer Wayne Race performed a traffic stop on C.N.’s vehicle near the intersection of Second Street and Daytona Avenue.

This Investigator approached C.N. and identified myself with police credentials. 

I advised C.N. that I was investigating the death of Mark Scribner, and C.N. immediately stated that she wanted to cooperate. 

Without prompting, C.N. stated she first heard about Kris Benson and Jason Keith’s involvement in the murder at approximately 02:00hrs on Tuesday, October 10, 1995, and agreed to voluntarily accompany investigators to the Holly Hill Police Department where a sworn statement was obtained.

In addition, investigators spoke with L.M. independent of C.N., who stated that her knowledge of the homicide came from her friend, K.S., who lives at the 527 Mobile Avenue home with Benson and Keith. 

L.M. agreed to accompany investigators to the police department where a sworn statement was obtained. 

During a recorded interview with C.N., she stated that at approximately 02:00hrs on Tuesday, October 10, 1995, while sitting outside the Mobile Avenue home she shares with Benson, the Keith brothers, and K.S., Kris Benson and Jason Keith arrived home, sweating profusely, while acting intermittently happy, nervous, and “paranoid.” 

According to C.N., when she asked the pair what they had been doing, each replied, “nothing.” 

After a while, C.N. advised she went inside the house and again confronted Benson and Keith about what they were doing earlier in the evening and became angry when she felt the pair were keeping a secret from her.

In turn, K.S. (described by C.N. as Benson’s ex-girlfriend) took C.N. outside the home and asked, “Remember what Kris said yesterday?” recalling that Benson had been discussing plans to kill someone.  K.S. then described how the victim was a cab driver and that Benson had stabbed him to death earlier in the evening. 

Later in the evening, C.N. spoke to Jason Keith alone and he described to her how earlier in the evening he and Kris Benson called a taxi and took it to the area of “Publix” at the Halifax Shopping Center. 

According to C.N., Jason Keith told her he was seated immediately next to the driver in the front seat, while Kris Benson was directly behind the driver in the rear seat, and Benson initiated his attack by stabbing the victim in the back of the head with a knife he carried with him, describing the wound to C.N. as “pretty deep.” 

C.N. stated that Keith told her Benson continued the attack by stabbing the driver in the back from behind. 

When the victim exited the taxi and staggered away in an attempt to escape, Benson attacked again. 

During this phase of the attack, Jason Keith told C.N. he observed blood “squirting” onto Benson, and when he looked back, the driver was laying on the ground “In a pool of his own blood.”

According to C.N., Keith then explained how the pair wiped down the taxi with their t-shirts to destroy fingerprints, and Benson wiped blood off his face, hands, and knife.  The pair then threw the knife into the Halifax river, “really far, where no one would find it.  Where there was a lot of mud.”

After disposing of the murder weapon, Jason Keith advised C.N. the pair walked home, taking backroads to avoid police.”

____________________

It is difficult to describe the living conditions at the Mobile Avenue home. 

While monitoring the concealed transmitter that M.K. courageously agreed to wear, the background was near constant “death metal” shock-rock music played at top volume – an atmosphere where essentially feral teenagers – 16 and 17 years old – lived without any adult supervision. 

During our investigation, we learned that 17-year old Kris Benson had become angry and depressed after one of his roommates, 16-year old K.S., rejected his desire for a more involved romantic relationship. 

Benson’s reaction to rejection was increasingly despondent behaviors, including using a knife to carve designs into his own flesh. 

“We were just dating.  We weren’t serious,” K.S. said, “I didn’t want a serious relationship with him – told him I didn’t want any type of serious relationship, that we could date each other, you know.  Be friends and occasionally go out on a date and stuff.  And I guess he got, I don’t know, I guess attached or something.  I don’t know what I did to make him all obsessed or whatever.”   

On Monday, October 9, 1995, K.S. advised that Benson appeared depressed and told her that “life meant nothing to him” – that he did not care anymore – and nothing mattered. 

During the discussion, K.S. recalled that Benson told her he planned to kill someone that night – something she felt was a meaningless boast designed to put her on a “guilt trip” so she would reconsider their relationship. 

According to K.S., Benson talked about the murder all day, and eventually Jason Keith asked Benson if he could go along. 

Eventually, Benson armed himself with a large, heavy-bladed knife and left the Mobile Avenue home to find a victim. . . 

Having obtained the corroborating testimony of the suspects’ friends and roommates, investigators obtained a search warrant for the home at 527 Mobile Avenue signed by Circuit Judge James Foxman.   

At 18:00hrs on Friday, October 13, 1995, I placed a call to the Daytona Beach Police Department and arranged for Inv. R.B. to meet with DBPD Inv. Paul Barnett and Inv. M. G. White – two of the best detectives I have ever known – at a predetermined location to coordinate the arrest of Kris Benson and Jason Keith. 

While I maintained visual surveillance on the Mobile Avenue home from an unmarked vehicle, a perimeter of officers and investigators were staged around the residence, as M.K. was again outfitted with a concealed transmitter and entered the home to confirm both suspects were present.

At approximately 18:33hrs, I transmitted a signal directing the arrest of the suspects – and officers of the Daytona Beach Police Department expertly moved on the home – with Officer Robert Blackwell first observing the pair in the kitchen area as he moved through the backyard.   

When Benson and Keith attempted to escape out a back door, Officer Blackwell – a brawny, gregarious veteran officer who epitomized the term “a good cop” – physically grabbed both subjects at once and ordered them to the floor. 

I then entered the home and identified myself to both Benson and Keith with police credentials before advising them they were under arrest for the murder of Mark Clyde Scribner.

Jason Keith and Kris Benson at the time of their arrest

During the subsequent search of the premises by Holly Hill, Daytona Beach, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators and crime scene technicians, a black t-shirt of the type worn by Benson on the night of the murder was located in a bedroom of the home. 

A forensic test performed on the shirt by FDLE Technician Kelly May showed presumptive positive for the presence of blood.

“Inside a trashcan near the bedroom dresser was a section of what appeared to be a driver’s license which contained the victim’s first name and a portion of the driver’s license number.  This item was discovered by Inv. James Patton and collected by Technician Kelly May. 

Inv. Patton discovered a second section of the same driver’s license was located near the doorway to the bedroom on the floor.  This section contained the victim’s last name and the remainder of the driver’s license number and was collected as evidence by Technician May.” 

Once at Holly Hill Police Department, Benson and Keith were secured in separate holding cells under constant observation while investigators began the arduous process of conducting interviews with witnesses, obtaining written statements, logging evidence, notifying the suspects’ parents, completing evidence reports, and preparing charging affidavits. 

At approximately 23:30hrs, Kris Benson was brought from the holding cell into the Criminal Investigation Division by Inv. R.B. 

In the presence of Officer J.G., Inv. R.B. explained the Miranda warning to Benson – and asked if he wanted to have his parents, attorney or anyone else present – and he said he did not have any relatives, or anyone else he wanted to contact, and he did not wish to use the telephone.

Inv. R.B. presented a waiver to Benson confirming that he did not wish to have an attorney present during any subsequent questioning which he signed. 

When Inv. R.B. began presenting the evidence against him, Benson said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” and he was returned to the holding area. 

At approximately 23:45hrs, Mr. John Keith, the father of Jason and Josh Keith, arrived at the police department and was briefed on his son’s involvement in the homicide. 

According to Mr. Keith, he had spent some time with Jason earlier in the week and reported his son had not mentioned anything about the killing.

Given the circumstances, Mr. Keith was extremely upset, and asked me how he should proceed.

I explained to Mr. Keith that I was not his son’s advocate and suggested that he seek the advice and counsel of an attorney as soon as possible. 

The crushing weight he was feeling as a father was palpable. 

I told Mr. Keith that Jason would not be questioned in this matter until he had spoken to an attorney, then arranged for him to have monitored access to his son.  During this limited contact, Jason told his father that he did not know anything about the killing of Mark Scribner.

At approximately 02:30hrs, I was told Jason Keith had a question, and I walked into the holding area where the suspects were being held, and Jason asked how much longer the pair would remain at the police department before transfer to the juvenile detention facility.

When I explained that the charging documents were being prepared, Kris Benson called out from an adjacent cell and asked that I approach his door. 

Benson began by asking that I turn up the air conditioner, stating he was cold, and I explained that I had no control over the temperature as the thermostat was locked. 

Then, Benson turned and sat down on the metal bench and again stated that he did not know anything about the murder he was being charged with.   

I explained that the testimony of witnesses and physical evidence suggested no one else could have committed the killing – and advised that he should try to bring some closure to the incident in his own mind, explaining that the other tragedy of this event was his young age, and that two lives have been lost – his figuratively and Scribner’s literally. 

Benson began to sob, holding his head in his hands, as I explained that each of his friends and roommates were giving statements detailing their knowledge of the murder.   

I then asked Benson if he wanted me to contact his parents or anyone else to be with him during this time, and he responded, “I’ve never met my Dad, and I don’t get along with my Mom,” explaining his mother lived “somewhere in Virginia,” reiterating that he did not want her notified.

He continued to cry and stare at the floor.   

I then explained to Benson that I did not know what to tell the victim’s family – I could not explain to them why Mark died – and he tearfully explained:

“Tell them a stupid kid killed him for no reason.”

Hearing the suspect in a violent crime admit their involvement is a major turning point – emotionally and strategically.  In this case, the brutal and indiscriminate nature of the killing – coupled with the young age of those responsible – stunned me for a moment as I stared at the young man seating in the stark holding cell. 

Benson looked me in the eye and said, “So talk.”

When asked why he killed Mr. Scribner, Benson said he could not explain the motivation, other than it was “…something that just came into my head and I couldn’t get it out,” and when asked how it happened, Benson said “I stabbed him in the skull.”

According to the investigative report:

“Benson went on to say that he had directed Scribner to drive him and Jason Keith to the marina behind the Halifax Shopping Center, then “One minute is wasn’t happening, the next minute it was.” 

From the cell, Benson explained that Scribner said nothing to him after he delivered the first stab wound to the back of his head, then he attempted to escape, “But I had ahold of him,” stating that when the victim attempted to run away, “I chased him down in two seconds and started stabbing him in the back.”

When I asked whether the attack occurred closer to the rear wall of the shopping center or to the marina complex, Benson said, “both places,” and explained that, after the murder, “It felt like the best thing that ever happened, but the next morning I felt like shit for what I did.”

Benson told me that he had been having recurring nightmares of the killing. 

He then looked in the direction of Jason Keith’s cell and stated, “He’s just a stupid kid who followed me, he wanted to come along.” 

According to Benson, following the murder, he and Keith walked from the scene south to the 600 block of North Beach Street in Daytona Beach where he threw the knife “200 to 300 feet” into a canal.

As he spoke, Benson appeared to draw out the area where the knife was thrown with his feet on the cell floor before becoming quiet.

Then, he began crying hard, dissolving into racking sobs, before dropping his head into his hands Benson lamented, “There’s nothing I can do about it now. . .”

____________________

17-year-old confesses to killing cab driver – Remorse no comfort to victim’s mother

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Brendan Smith

Kris Benson, a 17-year-old kid with a fascination for knives and a penchant for murder, didn’t feel so brave after spending a few hours in jail Friday night. 

After breaking down and crying at the Holly Hill Police Department jail, Benson confessed at about 3:00am Saturday to the brutal stabbing murder of cab driver Mark Scribner Monday night, police said. 

“(Benson) said he had no reason why he did it,” Sgt. Mark Barker said.  “He said, ‘I should tell his family a stupid kid killed him for no reason.” 

That didn’t offer much comfort for Johanna Scriber, who buried her only son Saturday in Taunton, Massachusetts.  Ms. Scribner said she had pictures of her son taken in the coffin because she still can’t believe he is dead. 

“I’m so disgusted that kids like this can do that,” she said in a tearful telephone interview Saturday.  “Mark gave them the money.  They still wanted to kill him just for killing.” 

It was Benson’s bragging about the crime to friends that led police to arrest him and accused accomplice Jason Taylor Keith, 15, at 527 Mobile Avenue Friday at about 6:30pm

Following a first appearance hearing Saturday the youths were taken to a high-security area of the juvenile detention facility on Red John Road.

After signing a waiver of his rights and declining the presence of an attorney, Benson told police Saturday he began thinking about murder after his girlfriend broke up with him, Barker said.

The girlfriend told police Benson began obsessing about the idea and used a knife to carve designs on his arms, Barker said.  “She felt he was trying to elicit some sympathy from her,” Barker said.  “She didn’t take it seriously until he came back to the house and showed her Mr. Scribner’s driver’s license.”

Benson then matched the driver’s license photo to a picture of the 39-year-old Scribner that ran in The News-Journal to prove to his friends he had done the deed.

Pieces of the license were found by police in a trash can at the youths’ house along with bloody clothes matching the description of the suspects’ attire. 

Benson and Keith decided to target a cab driver after rejecting the idea of killing a nighttime stroller on the beach, Barker said. 

Scribner, a driver for Checker Cabs for 18 months, happened to answer the call at the 7-Eleven convenience store, 301 S. Peninsula Drive in Daytona Beach at 10:13pm Monday.

According to Benson’s account to police, the two youths’ told Scribner they wanted to go to the Aloha Marina behind the Halifax Shopping Center, 231 Riverside Drive in Holly Hill.

When Scribner pulled in behind the center, Benson stabbed him twice in the head.  Thinking he was being robbed, Scribner threw his money at the boys before staggering out of the cab. 

“(Benson) said he chased him down in two seconds and continued to stab him in the back,” Barker said.  “It was just a very sad and very brutal crime.”

While Keith tried to wipe fingerprints from the interior of the cab, Benson stooped in a rain puddle and washed the blood from his face, hands and hair before throwing the knife in the Intracoastal Waterway, Barker said. 

They went home to the small, one-story beachside house they shared with Keith’s older brother, Josh, and two female teenagers.  A friend of one of the girls came forward to police Thursday after hearing Benson brag about the murder. 

John Keith, the boy’s father, used to live in the house but had moved in with a girlfriend in Ormond Beach, Barker said.  Keith could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Benson told police he did not know his father, and he was estranged from his mother, who had left him with the Keiths. 

Some neighbors on Mobile Avenue said they were shocked by the crime.  Others weren’t surprised.

Villie Bacev, owner of the Tropic Aire Motel which abuts the youths’ house, said he began carrying a gun with him because of run-ins with Keith. 

Bacev said Keith’s father told him Keith had been arrested more than 30 times for shoplifting, but little was done by authorities. 

“I’m not surprised at all.  I’m disgusted,” Dacev said of the murder.  “They didn’t even get slapped on the wrist (for past crimes).  That’s now called batter on a minor.”

Bacev and several other neighbors said they suspected the youths in several break-ins and petty thefts in the neighborhood. 

A grand jury will consider whether to indict Benson for murder and Keith on a charge of principal to murder.  Barker said he did not know if prosecutors would try the youths as adults due to the seriousness of the crime. 

Mrs. Scribner said it was too late for apologies from Benson. 

“I just know my son is down in the ground and what can I say?” she said.  “He was my only son.  He was here two months ago.  We laughed together.  I can see his face in front of me.”

____________________

In September 1996, I reported to the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, for three months of intensive law enforcement leadership training, graduating from the 187th Session in December of that year. 

I remained as supervisor of the Criminal Investigations Division, and in November 1997 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.    

In the spring of 1998, the trial of Kris Benson began in the Daytona Beach courtroom of Circuit Judge William C. Johnson, Jr.   

Veteran Assistant State Attorney Noah McKinnon was assigned to prosecute the case by then State Attorney John Tanner with the assistance of the very capable Assistant State Attorney Richard Whitson.

Attorney Noah McKinnon

During trial preparation, I was amazed by the hours of study and research Mr. McKinnon spent examining and questioning every aspect of the investigation, all while I sat quietly in a conference room ready to provide context or explanation. 

We spent many hours together and I learned much from Mr. McKinnon’s extensive legal experience.  One late night, Noah McKinnon imparted a valuable piece of wisdom that I have never forgotten:

“Luck favors the prepared mind.” 

The prosecution of this case was not cut-and-dried.  Far from it.       

The court appointed veteran Daytona Beach trial attorney Jeffrey Dees, a graduate of Harvard Law, to defend Kris Benson at trial – and Mr. Dees provided his client a competent, aggressive, and passionate advocacy. 

During pre-trial motions, Mr. Dees moved to have Benson’s confession thrown out on legal grounds. 

Judge Johnson granted the motion. 

According to the ruling, Benson was held at the Holly Hill Police Department for the better part of eight hours without a shirt, shoes, or socks and with nothing to eat. 

As the supervisor in charge of the investigation, I should have had Benson and Keith transferred to the Juvenile Detention Center within six hours of their arrest per the regulations governing juvenile suspects.    

“These statutes are not mere technicalities, but must be presumed to be the expression of the will of the people of this state,” Judge Johnson wrote. 

He was right. 

I made a mistake, and it cost the prosecution a vital piece of evidence.  The fault lies with me alone. 

The late Judge William C. Johnson, Jr.

____________________

Defense: Teen killed cabbie out of anger 

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Joseph Ditzler

Mark Scribner died a bloody death, stumbling and falling as he fled the killer who stabbed him up to nine times in the back, according to the Volusia County Medical Examiner. 

Five hours later, a policeman found the 39-year-old cabdriver’s body laying in a damp, secluded alley 242 feet from his cab.  The can had been left in drive and its lights left on, had drained the battery. 

The night’s receipts were gone.

But Scribner’s killer didn’t set out to kill or rob him, or anyone else, said the lawyer defending him against a murder charge Wednesday. 

“This is a classic tale of a family gone wrong and the consequences on the children,” attorney Jeffrey Dees told jurors. 

Dees didn’t deny his client, Kris Benson, 19, killed Scribner on October 9, 1995.  But he explained to jurors in his opening statement that Benson, a child left to fend for himself, killed out of impulse and anger. 

His mother, a serious crack cocaine user, abandoned the boy after moving around the country from house to house and boyfriend to boyfriend, Dees said. 

“She neglected him for drugs,” Dees said. 

Attorney Jeffrey Dees

Authorities charged Benson, 17 at the time of Scribner’s death, with first-degree murder and robbery. 

If he is convicted, Assistant State Attorneys Noah McKinnon and Richard Whitson plan to ask the same jury to recommend the death penalty. 

What jurors accept as Benson’s frame of mind at the time could prove crucial.  If he intended to rob or kill Scribner, a first-degree murder conviction looms.

If not, then he faces second-degree murder or less. 

His mother gone to Virginia in 1995, Benson moved in with the Keith family – Jason, 15, and Josh, 17, and their father John – on Mobile Avenue.  Shortly afterward, the father moved out, Dees said. 

The boys were left alone.  Two 16-year-old girls, K.S. and C.N., moved in shortly afterward, Dees said. He said K.S. and her boyfriend kept them all supplied with LSD. 

Benson and Jason Keith ingested two or three doses of LSD each the night of Scribner’s killing, he said. 

And their housemates at 527 Mobile were under the influence of the hallucinogenic drug when the pair arrived home late that night.

They’re expected to testify Benson bragged of killing the cabdriver in order to impress K.S., who had dumped him after a brief romantic fling. 

Dees cautioned their testimony may be suspect and said he would call an expert to testify about the effects of LSD. 

The jury also viewed 35 photographs of the scene where Holly Hill police found Scribner’s body behind the Halifax Shopping Center at 231 Riverside Drive.  Police Lt. Mark Barker described the blood-smeared 1985 Dodge cab and a blood-splattered wall nearby.  Finally, he described Scribner’s body, his shirt soaked with blood and torn by a knife. 

Dr. Ronald Reeves, district medical examiner, followed Barker to the stand to describe numerous abrasions on Scribner’s face and elbows, along with incisions in his scalp and stab wounds in his back. 

“He died as a combination of all the injuries he sustained, a large loss of blood within a short period causing shock and ultimately death,” Reeves said. 

____________________

Ultimately, Jason Keith pleaded guilty to lesser related charges and agreed to testify at Benson’s trial. 

During his testimony, Keith recalled how Benson chased the victim down, who turned to face his killer and tossed a wad of cash at him, before backing up into a wall of the shopping center. 

Keith said he turned away for 10 or 15 seconds, then looked again to see Benson standing over Scrinber’s body. 

“What the fuck is going on here,” Keith recalled thinking. 

“You saw Kris Benson kill this man?” asked prosecutor Richard Whitson. 

“Yes, I did,” Keith said. 

Keith then described how Benson walked to a pothole filled with rainwater and stooped to wash his bloody hands. 

“Are you going to keep your mouth shut about this?” he said Benson asked.  “You’d better or you’ll end up like the cabdriver.” 

Keith testified that after the killing, the pair walked across the Main Street bridge to a convenience store where Benson, who had to borrow a quarter earlier in the night to call the taxi, bought each of them a fountain drink. . . 

During his closing argument, prosecutor Noah McKinnon said Benson knew he wanted to go to a dark, secluded area behind the Halifax Shopping Center.  “It is a place where a murder could occur,” he said. 

“He wanted more than money.  He wanted his very life.” 

____________________

Jury urges life term for cabbie’s killer – The convicted murderer said he was on LSD when he committed the murder and robbery in 1995

The Orlando Sentinel

By Ludmilla Lelis

After hearing a Daytona Beach teen testify that he killed a cabdriver “to take him out of his pain,” a Volusia County jury recommended Wednesday the convicted murderer spend the rest of his life in prison. 

Circuit Judge William C. Johnson will decide today whether Kris William Benson, 19, will be sentenced to life in prison for the death of cabdriver Mark Scribner, 39. 

Earlier this week, the 12-member jury found Benson guilty of first-degree murder for the October 9, 1995, slaying and armed robbery with a deadly weapon.  Benson, who was 17 at the time and high on LSD, stabbed Scribner to death from the back seat of the taxicab. 

Testifying for the first time Wednesday, he said he now realizes what he did was wrong. 

After striking Scribner in the head, Benson tried to hold him in the cab and continued stabbing him.  The cab driver ran 200 feet away, but Benson chased him down and continued stabbing him. 

“I had to finish it,” Benson said, trying to hide his face while he cried.  “I couldn’t let him sit there and be in pain.” 

“I don’t remember feeling anything,” he testified.  “It’s my fault…I really don’t have a reason for it.”

Though he said he regrets his actions now, Benson admitted that he didn’t have remorse as he repeatedly stabbed Scribner.  When asked by Assistant State Attorney Noah McKinnon whether he took mercy or had any pity for Scribner, Benson answered with a faint, “No.” 

Scribner’s mother, Johanna Scribner, 63, of East Taunton, Massachusetts, said she could not forgive Benson because of that answer. 

“I can say sometimes that I felt sorry for him, but when it came back to what he did to Mark and that he showed no pity, no, I can never forgive him,” she said. 

In a letter read to the jury, she said Mark was her only son – an Army veteran and a music graduate of Purdue University who composed music and played the drums, keyboards and guitar.  He enjoyed playing chess and volunteered for the Salvation Army every Christmas season. 

“I’m glad justice is done,” she said, adding that she doesn’t think the death penalty was necessary for Benson.  “I think he would suffer more in prison.”

Benson’s attorney Jeffrey Dees argued Wednesday that Benson had already suffered much in his short lifetime and eventually fell into drug abuse, like his mother.  Jurors learned how he was ignored and mistreated by his crack cocaine-addicted mother and forced to fend for himself. 

His parents divorced when he was 3, and his father lives in California. 

After his parents divorced, Benson moved constantly, whenever his mother had a new boyfriend. His aunt, Julie Hines, and his mother’s former boss, Mary Shearer, remembered Benson as a sweet boy who was starved for attention, and for food.

Hines said Benson’s mother, Suzanne, smoked opium and took pills when she was 17 years old.  Throughout his childhood, he lived in terrible conditions sleeping in closets, eating squirrels and living under bridges while his mother partied all night or was in jail. 

“She wasn’t there for him,” Hines said.  “She didn’t give him a stable home – nothing all his life.” 

Shearer remembered that as an adolescent, Benson often came to the beauty salon where his mom worked, looking for food.  “He was so kind and so loveable.  I never heard any ill words out of his mouth.” 

____________________

Following his conviction at trial, Circuit Judge William C. Johnson, Jr. sentenced Kris William Benson to life in prison.  The judge also directed that Benson serve a concurrent sentence of 5 years and 4 months for armed robbery with a deadly weapon. 

Kris William Benson

Due to his age at the time of the murder, Benson’s sentence was later changed to 40 years in prison. 

On April 28, 1998, Jason Taylor Keith was sentenced to 4 years in prison for accessory after the fact to premeditated murder. 

Jason Taylor Keith

Following his release, in 2002, Keith was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months for a burglary in Volusia County. 

Then, Keith was sentenced to 3 years, 8 months and 1 day in prison for another Volusia County burglary.

Jason Keith is currently serving a 16-year sentence for a robbery conviction in Seminole County. 

He is currently being held at the Avon Park Work Camp and is scheduled for release on March 6, 2024.    

____________________

Epilogue   

In 2009, I was appointed Chief of Police for the Holly Hill Police Department.  I had the distinct pleasure of serving the citizens of that wonderful community for a total of 31-years. 

In March 2014, following my retirement, Inv. Stephen K. Aldrich was appointed Chief of Police for the City of Holly Hill Police Department – an incredibly talented law enforcement officer and true servant-leader who epitomizes honor, integrity and dedicated service.    

Inv. R.B. continues to serve, having made a career conducting and supervising sensitive narcotics investigations for a law enforcement agency in Central Florida. 

Officer Richard Klein honorably retired from active service with the Holly Hill Police Department and currently lives in quiet solitude in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Richard recently wrote:

Mark, Thank you for the kind words you wrote about me and for your accurate recounting of an event, some 25 years after the fact, that is still fresh in my memory.

Until reading this article a few minutes ago, I never realized how deeply you delved into the victim’s background in an effort to learn all you could about his family, friends, interests and education in order for you to speak knowingly and passionately on his behalf during the upcoming hearings and trial that would inevitably follow this heinous murder.

I will not spoil the ending for your many readers, but I will say that this is a tale worth re-telling and it does provide the reader with a unique inside view of police procedure…the human side as well as the technical side.

Even though I was there through it all, your ability to paint an artful word picture of these events provides all your readers (including me) a clearer understanding of why we chose to become law enforcement officers in the first place. Stay safe.”

Thank you, Richard. . .

Inv. James Patton honorably retired from active service with the Holly Hill Police Department and currently lives with his wife in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Brendan Smith is now a freelance journalist in Washington D.C. – his help with this case was immeasurable.

Former Orlando Sentinel reporter Ludmilla Lelis now serves as the Court Communications Officer for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. 

M.K. – the brave young man who so courageously came forward to provide information and assistance critical to bringing Benson and Keith to justice still lives in the Daytona Beach area.  He can forever live his life with the pride of knowing that he did the right thing, for the right reason, under dangerous and difficult circumstances to see justice for the victim of this horribly violent crime.    

The location of the other witnesses is unknown.   

On June 13, 2020, after 25-years in prison for the murder of Mark Clyde Scribner, Kris Benson committed suicide at Columbia Correctional Institution at Lake City, Florida.

4 thoughts on “Part III – The Case of Mark Scribner: “He wanted more than money. He wanted his very life.”

  1. “What you got ain’t nothin’ new. This country’s hard on people. You can’t stop what’s coming. It ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.”

    —No Country For Old Men

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  2. What a legacy of failure of both suspects’ parents… and how heartbreakingly ironic that a kid starved for maternal love chooses as his victim the only son of a woman who cared about him very much.

    Were either of Benson’s parents ever located and/or informed?

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