Participant in 2007 Stafford slaying testifies
BY KEITH EPPS / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Dennis Benzie said he had no reason to want Jason Plaster dead.
But he said he went along with William Hughes’ 2007 plot that resulted in Plaster’s death anyway.
Plaster, 31, was killed and buried sometime in July 2007 on Benzie’s property at 881 Belle Plains Road in southern Stafford.
Police began a multi-day digging operation at Benzie’s property last March after Benzie told them a body was there.
In exchange for his information, Benzie received immunity from prosecution on the murder charge and is a key prosecution witness in Hughes’ scheduled three-day murder trial this week in Stafford Circuit Court.
Much of Benzie’s testimony Tuesday morning was disjointed, as he frequently responded to defense attorney Chris Feldmann’s questions with answers such as “I don’t remember” or “it was a long time ago.”
But Benzie said he was certain that Hughes killed Plaster and that he and Stuart Lee Sullivan helped bury him.
Benzie said he had been working in his shop at his property near Potomac Creek one day in July 2007 when Hughes and Sullivan showed up in Hughes’ truck. He said they talked about luring Plaster into the woods under the guise of digging up buried firearms.
He testified that when Plaster arrived, they spent time at the riverbank before going deep into the woods. Benzie, who said he’d been drinking all day, said eventually he heard a single shot and looked back and saw Hughes with a Derringer in his hand.
Plaster slumped to the ground with a bullet wound to his ribs. Benzie said Sullivan then fired several shots in Plaster’s direction at Hughes’ command, though he said it appeared that Plaster was already dead by then.
The three men then buried Plaster and covered him with lime that Hughes had in the back of his truck.
When Plaster’s remains were found, he had a 9mm bullet in the back of his skull and a bullet wound in his ribs. A medical examiner has determined that either wound could have been fatal.
Benzie testified that he hit Plaster in the head with a shovel after he was already dead. Asked why, he said “I was participating in a crime.
“As soon as it was over, I tried to black it out as best I could.”
Benzie did recall one altercation in which Plaster threw him out of his home and down a hill. Benzie said he was drunk that day and couldn’t find his way out of a room in Plaster’s home, so he kicked a hole in the wall in an effort to get out.
But he said that had nothing to do with Plaster’s death.
Benzie put prosecutors Lori DiGiosia and Ed Lustig on edge as soon as he began testifying. He was unable to identify Hughes in the courtroom, at one point saying, “He’s not in here.” Hughes currently has a short haircut and no facial hair and looks different than he did seven years ago.
About 90 minutes into his testimony, Benzie said he finally recognized Hughes at the defense table.
Benzie was arrested on drug-related charges in March 2013. It was around that time that he told police about the Plaster slaying. He claimed Hughes told him he was upset with Plaster for flirting with his wife and daughter.
Benzie eventually led police to Sullivan, who has since pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Sullivan, who was also expected to testify today, has denied knowing about the murder plot before Hughes fired the first shot.
Plaster was reported missing in August 2007 by family members who said they hadn’t seen him in several weeks. His car was found abandoned on Charles Street in Fredericksburg.
During cross examination, Feldmann repeatedly questioned Benzie about the details surrounding the murder plan, and Benzie was unable to answer most of the questions. Feldmann suggested that the reason a highly intoxicated Benzie drove Plaster’s car to Fredericksburg was because he and Sullivan were the only two involved.
Benzie said he feels like “crap” testifying against Hughes. “I loved him. Testifying against him sucks because I care about Bill and his family.”
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404