Still Seeking Justice in Sullivan County Cold Case Murder

Police are still looking for a suspect in 51-year-old Jeanette Benson's murder. (Photo Courtesy: Sullivan Co. Sheriff's Office)
Police are still looking for a suspect in 51-year-old Jeanette Benson's murder. (Photo Courtesy: Sullivan Co. Sheriff's Office)

FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTHI) – The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police Investigators are still looking for justice for 51-year-old Jeanette Benson.

On the evening of January 2, 1981, Benson had returned to her Farmersburg home from grocery shopping.

That’s where she was found shot to death.

Sullivan County Sheriff Clark Cottom is doing all he can to keep a cold case murder spanning more than three decades from growing colder.

Cottom says, “The anniversary of these deaths are a very painful time for the families, and if anything good can come out of that is we can also take that anniversary as an opportunity to refresh the public’s memory, and ask the public for help.”

Jeanette’s husband, Emory, was at work in Terre Haute at the time of his wife’s murder.

Emory noticed his wife’s car was pulled to the side of the driveway where she normally did not park.

Police theorize the intruder’s vehicle blocked part of the driveway.
Cottom adds, “We have been able to establish that an intruder was inside the home when she arrived. Mrs. Benson not knowing it was an intruder, thought that it was someone giving her husband a ride home.”

But that wasn’t the case.

Cottom says a witness noticed an unfamiliar vehicle pull into the Benson’s drive.

The driver exited the vehicle, knocked on the door, and returned to his vehicle.

After that, the witness dismissed the situation and quit watching.

That’s when police believed the suspect broke into the home.

Cottom says, “They described him as tall, thin, possibly in his 20’s. We have to keep in mind now that this suspect, this individual, would likely be in his 50’s. So we’re asking the public to think back quite some time.”

One of the key pieces of the investigation is the vehicle the suspect was driving.

Cottom says, “We really feel like that car is a central part of this investigation. The neighbors kept a close eye on one another. They knew that that car did not fit there. And that car was there just moments prior to Mrs. Benson’s arrival.”

Cottom says the car was a “robin egg blue” Plymouth Valiant.

That’s what witnesses recall seeing in Benson’s driveway.

Investigators say they’ve exhausted many leads over the last 36 years.

Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to develop sufficient enough information for an arrest.

But, there are still potential leads to follow thanks to technology.

Cottom says, “Law enforcement has changed a great deal over the years and we have technology that was not available in the 1980’s. Through DNA analysis, touch DNA, there’s a lot of evidence that can be tested and we’ve requested those testings be done here as of late.”

Another possible source of information could be here in the Wabash Valley.

Cottom says, “We’re well aware that relationships change. Divorces occur. Friendships break up, and also sometimes peoples’ conscience get the better of them. So we continue in all of these cases to hope that somebody will come forward with the information needed to bring justice to this case.”

Cottom says through the suspect and car’s description, DNA testing, and help from the public, he believes police can find some answers.

But something he’s hopeful for is a change in the suspect’s heart.

The sheriff says, “We would want to remind the suspect that this case will not be forgot about. Nor will any other homicide case be forgot about. It will never go away. You need to do the right thing and come forward.”

Which could bring closure to this cold case murder.

If you know of any information concerning Mrs. Benson’s murder, contact the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office at 812-268-4308 or the Indiana State Police at 765-653-4114.