Arizona authorities today identified the serial predator suspect arrested Wednesday after DNA linked him to a series of violent sexual crimes against women, including a pair of unsolved murders.
Trent Christopher Benson, 38, is being held at the Maricopa County Jail. He faces nine criminal charges, including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts or violent sexual assault, three counts of kidnapping and one count of sexual assault, according to a release by the Mesa County Police Department.
Benson will be held without bond and could face additional charges, according to police.
The murder suspect was arrested Wednesday afternoon just two days after authorities announced that DNA had connected two unsolved rape and murders and two recent kidnapping and sexual assaults to a single suspect.
Benson was watched by surveillance for a day before authorities made the arrest.
Police obtained Benson's DNA from an undisclosed source Tuesday, Mesa Police Department spokesman Steve Berry said at a Wednesday news conference. Investigators expedited the forensics analysis and confirmed that the suspect had the same DNA profile that tied together at least four brutal crimes that raised the specter of a possible serial killer on the loose in an area too familiar with serial crimes.
"We want to let the community know they can relax to a certain extent," Mesa Police Chief George Gascon said at the news conference. "We feel very comfortable that we can tell the community that the person that is responsible for these cases is in our custody."
Gascon declined to identify the suspect by name Wednesday, and the department refused to release a booking photograph because authorities want to allow victims to pick the suspect out of a police lineup. A reporter for the East Valley Tribune who watched Benson's first appearance in court today described the suspect as wearing blue jeans, black loafers and a T-shirt as a Maricopa County judge read the charges against him.
Authorities Wednesday described the suspect, who is "talking with" detectives, as a Mesa resident with a criminal history involving the solicitation of prostitutes. The two murdered women whose bodies were linked to Benson through his DNA both were involved in the sex trade industry.
Before authorities identified the suspect, residents in one neighborhood, as well as customers at a local business, watched as Mesa police executed search warrants tied to the arrest.
Some of them, such as Anne Hickman, knew the male resident who lived in the apartment searched by authorities. "I wouldn't expect a man like him to act out," Hickman told ABC News' Phoenix affiliate.
Mesa police announced May 5 that DNA recovered from an Aug. 16, 2007, sex attack in broad daylight on a Hispanic victim matched forensic evidence collected at the murder scenes of Alisa Marie Beck and Karen Jane Campbell, who were killed in November 2004 and October 2007, respectively.
That connection followed a December 2007 confirmation by police that the same suspect's DNA had been found at each of the Beck and Campbell crime scenes. Prior to the DNA link, authorities had reason to believe the murders were connected and a serial predator might be at work.