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Anonymous Letter Implicated Girlfriend in California Man’s 1996 Cold Case Murder: Police

Image of Jade Benning.

Jade Benning

After more than two decades, police say they have caught a person involved in a man’s 1996 murder: his live-in girlfriend.

Police in Santa Ana, California, say that an anonymous letter they received in 2020 implicated Jade Benning in the stabbing death of Christopher Hervey.

Benning, now 48, was living in Austin, Texas, when U.S. Marshals arrested her near her home on Tuesday, officers said. She had moved there years after Hervey was stabbed to death, officers said.

Police said they responded to an early-morning emergency call to the apartment where Benning and Hervey lived.

“On January 4, 1996, at approximately 3:00 am, Santa Ana Police officers responded to the 2200 block of N. Broadway Street regarding a call of a male Black suspect that had forced entry into the apartment and stabbed the victim, Christopher Hervey, numerous times,” a police statement said. “The victim subsequently succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased.”

There was only one purported witness to the actual slaying: Benning.

“The victim was stabbed numerous times in the upper torso,” police said. “The girlfriend, Jade Benning, made general statements about the incident. Neighbors heard a loud argument inside the apartment for approximately 15 minutes.”

Hervey and Benning were 22 years old at the time. Benning told cops that someone broke in while they slept, The Orange County Register said, citing earlier reporting. The intruder stabbed Hervey and fled, according to this version of events.

Christopher sustained wounds in his chest and body. Investigators did not find a weapon. Benning reportedly said at the time that she suffered a minor cut to her right hand. A witness told police about seeing a man running from the apartment building.

The case went cold. Cops on Tuesday did not specify how they believe Benning was behind Hervey’s death, but they did reveal that they got a pivotal tip more than two years ago. Benning had moved around in the years since the killing.

“In 2001, Benning relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada and ultimately moved to Austin, Texas,” police said. “In January 2020, an anonymous letter was received at the Santa Ana Police Department implicating Benning as involved in the murder of Christopher Hervey.”

A homicide case case investigator they named as Detective Gibbons (without giving a first name) did a follow-up investigation, including forensic testing, officers said.

Police did not say if they ever figured out who wrote the letter. Officers indicated that they were closing in on a suspect when detectives reportedly executed search warrants in Austin in 2020 in connection with the investigation into Hervey’s death.

“Ultimately, sufficient evidence was collected to obtain a criminal complaint, and a $1,000,000 warrant was issued for the arrest of Jade Benning,” officers said.

The Register reported that Benning was was arrested near her home in Austin by agents from the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force while Santa Ana Police Department detectives were present.

Extradition back to California is pending. Santa Ana police did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.

[Image via Santa Ana Police Department]

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