Police officials in Melvindale, Michigan, have arrested two suspects – 16-year-old Jeremy Lee, of Detroit, and Jacob Barnes, 23, of Lincoln Park – in connection with the fatal beating of Amanda Lynn Benton, 29, who was five months pregnant, according to Mlive.
Benton – who was a mother-of-four and pregnant with her first daughter — was reported missing after leaving her home at approximately 3:30 a.m. Monday, September 26, to southwest Detroit and never returned.
“She was going to check herself into rehab — take her to a rehab. She’d been going through issues. She lost her kids about a year ago and since then she’s been up-and-down, you know,” her boyfriend, Andrew Diabo, said.
“She will come out here, she’ll get what she needs and she’ll go home. She doesn’t hang around this neighborhood.”
“My daughter had some demons she was fighting,” said Benton’s father, Tom. “She was turned away from so many different rehab facilities because she didn’t have the right insurance or enough money.”
At around 10 p.m. the same day, her green Dodge Neon was discovered in a secluded area – unlocked and ransacked – but there was no sign of the missing woman.
Relatives stated that a homeless man later found Benton’s purse in an alley but her “wallet, identification, and her cell phone” were missing.
However, just two days after the Melvindale mother was reported missing, Benton’s body was discovered inside of an abandoned house.
Investigators say she appeared to have been beaten to death before her body was set on fire.
Further investigation led to the arrests of Barnes and Lee on September 30, and the duo was charged with “felony murder, first-degree murder, assault of a pregnant individual causing death of a fetus and mutilation of a body.”
It was later uncovered that Lee allegedly struck Benton on the head, neck, and abdomen before the suspects stuffed her body in the trunk of her own vehicle.
Barnes and Lee reportedly drove Benton to an abandoned house in the 8000 block of Vanderbilt and set her body on fire.
Sources say they took the victims’ car and later abandoned it.
Relatives believe Benton agreed to meet with Barnes and Lee in southwest Detroit to “buy suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction” and the drug deal went awry.
They appeared before Judge Bari Blake Wood for an arraignment but afterward, a fight erupted outside of the courthouse between Lee’s family and the victim’s when words were exchanged.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the victim’s uncle – whose name has not been released — approached a man from Lee’s family and the pair began to fight as bystanders screamed in horror.
Police and guards from the courthouse ran outside and immediately separated the two men but the victim’s mother, Florine Harper, wasn’t pleased with what transpired.
“All this out there [the fighting] was unnecessary. All I feel in myself is a heartbeat, I feel nothing else. I’m trying to hold myself together for my grandchildren,” Harper said.
“It’s never going to leave me. It’s like yesterday I carried my baby out the hospital in a blanket and now I’m carrying her out of a place in a box. This is so messed up. What gets me is the brutality of it. They beat her in the face so bad. I pray to God my daughter was not burned. What they did to her, I hope it was quick.”
Benton’s uncle, Chuck Harper, created a Go Fund Me account to help with cremation expenses.
“Some of her ashes will be used to make her mother, father, her boyfriend, and her four sons keepsakes, which will also be purchased from the funds,” according to the site.
Barnes and Lee are scheduled to appear in court on October 9 and 13 for a probable cause conference and a preliminary examination.
[Featured Image via iStock Photo/IfH85]