Charging documents show woman found in car was tortured, shot before being killed
A late night DUI crash turned into a homicide investigation after police found a dead woman in the back of a vehicle Monday night. Charging documents against the driver, 34-year-old Benjamin Wilkins, revealed the woman had been severely injured and killed prior to the crash.
Wilkins was detained on suspicion of intoxication after failing field sobriety tests, according to charging documents. As he was being transported to the Anchorage Correctional Complex, officers at the scene of the crash located 30-year-old Jacqueline Goodwin’s body hidden under a sleeping bag in the back seat of the vehicle.
Her wrists were bound with zip ties and a garbage bag had been placed over her head, charging documents stated. She was still warm to the touch and, in an effort to help her, police took the bag off her head. Her mouth was covered with tape and zip ties, and zip ties had been stuffed down her throat.
Unable to establish an airway or a pulse, medics declared her dead at the scene.
Wilkins was taken to police headquarters for questioning, and during his interview, police noticed blood on his shoes and shirt. Wilkins told them he’d had a bloody nose from the crash, but his nose had no signs of blood inside it.
The vehicle Wilkins had been driving was registered to his grandmother, Suzanne Stefano. In the days following the crash, police visited her home multiple times to speak with her. They also spoke with his mother, Jacqueline Stefano, as well as his brother, Connor Stefano.
During their initial discussions, charging documents show Wilkins’ family told police he did not live there and they did not know where he lived. Connor Stefano also stated he had not seen Wilkins for about a week, particularly the night of the crash. In a solo interview with Suzanne Stefano, she admitted that Wilkins lived there, paid rent and was the only one with keys to the basement.
Jacqueline Stefano also later admitted to hearing a “loud” argument from the basement Monday evening, during which a female sounded “distressed,” police wrote. She told police she called Connor Stefano to “deal with it” around 8 p.m., which Connor Stefano confirmed. However, he said he did not go into the basement until the fighting noise stopped, and he found his brother and the woman had left.
Connor Stefano told police the basement was covered in blood, so he decided to clean it up with Clorox. At some point, his mother told him to stop. He then hid the cleaning supplies and his bloody clothes, all of which police later recovered for evidence.
Police said in charging documents that while Connor Stefano stated he “did not assist in the murder or disposing of the female victim’s body,” that a number of things pointed to a different conclusion:
“Police observed that someone backed [a] vehicle up over the grass in the yard to the stairs going down to Wilkins’ basement apartment. Although there was blood on the threshold, there was no blood or drag marks on the stairs, indicating that Wilkins had help carrying the female up the stairs and placing her in Suzanne’s vehicle. Police noted that Wilkins is 155 pounds and the victim was 175 pounds.”
During a warranted search of Suzanne Stefano’s home, they found more than $125,000 in cash, nearly $30,000 of which was found in a motorhome on the property that Jacqueline Stefano claimed belonged to her. In the basement, police found “more drugs than many of the officers conducting the search had ever seen in their years,” the state’s prosecutor said in court Wednesday:
- 14.69 ounces of black tar heroin
- 48.29 ounces of mushrooms
- 60.58 ounces of Xanax
- 15.34 ounces of “blue Lego-shaped tablets”
- 39.79 ounces of methamphetamine
- 8.93 ounces of cocaine
- 1.33 ounces of amphetamines
- 173.87 ounces of processed marijuana
Police also noted a brass bed with bent and broken bars and a mattress with blood stains. A bullet hole was also observed in the mattress.
Autopsy showed Goodwin had suffered significant trauma before her death. Her body showed signs of significant bruising, many of her teeth had been broken out and she had a gunshot wound in her abdomen. Charging documents also stated large chunks of her flesh had been ripped out using pliers.
“Due to the many forms of trauma that were observed on [Goodwin] and the significant nature of many of these injuries, the medical examiner was unable to complete the autopsy that day or make a determination on a cause of death,” the documents explained.
The final autopsy report revealed multiple contributors to her cause of death, including asphyxiation, blunt force head injury and the gunshot wound.
On Wednesday, Wilkins was arraigned on multiple charges — first-degree murder, kidnapping, second-degree sexual assault, tampering with physical evidence, driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance (MICS), four counts of third-degree MICS and two counts of fourth-degree MICS.
His bail was set at $1 million. The state’s prosecutor described Goodwin’s death as “prolonged and agonizing,” and called Wilkins a flight risk and the “gravest risk to our community.”
Jacqueline Stefano has been charged with fourth-degree MICS as well as first-degree hindering prosecution. Connor Stefano also faces a charge of first-degree hindering prosecution.
When asked if any additional charges would be handed down, Anchorage police said that information would be released at a later date.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.
KTVA 11’s Shannon Ballard, Shannon Riddle and Daniella Rivera contributed to this report.
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