The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Witness details 2007 slaying
Dennis Paul Benzie has gaps in his memory regarding a day back in 2007 in which 31-year-old Jason Shane Plaster was shot and killed on Benzie’s property in the White Oak area of southern Stafford.
But Benzie was clear about one thing during his lengthy testimony Thursday in Stafford General District Court—Stafford residents William Joseph Hughes, 44, and Stuart Lee Sullivan, 49, were the ones who shot Plaster.
Benzie, 58, was the key prosecution witness in Hughes’ preliminary hearing. Charges of first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a felony were certified to a county grand jury by Judge Bruce Strickland following the hearing.
Sullivan had already waived his preliminary hearing. He was arraigned in Stafford Circuit Court earlier Thursday, and a two-day jury trial was scheduled for Dec. 10 and 11.
Plaster’s remains were found March 29 on Benzie’s property at 881 Belle Plains Road following an extensive seven-day search that began after Benzie was arrested on multiple drug-related charges earlier that month.
Plaster had been reported missing in August 2007 and his family said he hadn’t been seen for several weeks before that. Court records list the date of his murder as June 1.
Benzie Thursday testified that Hughes called him shortly before Plaster’s slaying and told him to “get a shovel.”
He said Hughes then told him about a plan to kill Plaster and bury him on Benzie’s property, which contains about 80 acres.
Benzie, who said he’d been drinking all day, said Hughes showed up with a large amount of lime and left.
He returned later with Sullivan and Plaster was following them in his 1997 Kia Sephia.
Benzie testified that they lured Plaster into the woods under the pretense of getting some firearms that were buried there.
He said Hughes then shot Plaster in the chest with a black derringer and he claimed Plaster was smiling as he fell to the ground while saying, “Ow, that hurt.”
He said Hughes had pronounced Plaster dead by the time Sullivan fired several more shots into the body for good measure.
Nothing was said during the hearing regarding why the men wanted Plaster dead or what led Benzie to come forward with the information six years later.
Prosecutors Lori DiGiosia and Ed Lustig have made a deal with Benzie in which he is assured of not being charged with murder so long as he is cooperative and truthful.
But the deal does not prevent Benzie from being charged with other offenses related to his involvement in the incident, nor does it affect his pending drug charges.
Benzie said that after the shooting, he began digging Plaster’s grave, but stopped because his back was hurting.
Under questioning from Hughes’ attorney, John Irving, Benzie said he didn’t remember whom he handed the shovel to, “but it certainly wasn’t Mr. Plaster.”
Plaster was covered with lime before he was buried, according to the story.
Benzie said he later drove Plaster’s vehicle to Mayfield subdivision in Fredericksburg. Police later recovered the car.
Irving spent much of the afternoon trying to discredit Benzie, but most of his questions were met by objections from the prosecutors or claims from Benzie that he didn’t know or was “blacked out” at the time.
Among the unanswered questions were ones regarding a fight between Plaster and Benzie months before the slaying and claims that Benzie had bragged about killing people and burying them on his property.
The only other witness to testify Thursday was Stafford 1st Sgt. John Hughes, who said police eventually found the body within 30 or 40 yards of where Benzie thought it was.
Search warrants connected to the Plaster slaying remain sealed in circuit court.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404