published Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Hutcheson hospital ICU shooting suspect's home had several police visits

Chattanooga police made four visits since 2009 to the home of a man charged in connection with the shooting death of two women.

North Georgia authorities said James Benson has no criminal record, but Chattanooga police have been to his house on East 34th Street several times for minor issues, records show.

Benson has been charged with two counts of felony murder after police say he opened fire Friday evening in the Erlanger at Hutcheson Intensive Care Unit waiting room. Shots killed his estranged wife, Mary Sue Benson, and her 77-year-old mother, Charlotte Johnson, who were visiting Mary Sue Benson's sister in ICU.

Neighbors said Benson and his wife seemed to have a rocky relationship, but they knew little about him. Mary Sue Benson had been living with her mother and other two sisters in Rossville, but had moved out, said Mary Davis, a neighbor from across the street.

Benson is being held in the Walker County Jail without a bond. He is still wearing a suicide prevention gown, but his suicide watch status will be evaluated again today, Sheriff Steve Wilson said.

In Chattanooga, Benson worked both as a security guard and several years ago as a maintenance worker, officials said.

Police were called to Benson's home twice in 2010 to check on his welfare and again for reports on a stolen vehicle, records show. In June 2010, Benson reported that his 1990 Oldsmobile had been stolen from his driveway, but there were no suspects in the case.

Police also went to the house in 2009 on reports of property damage, but the police department couldn't find an incident report on the case and it wasn't clear what happened.

The latest police visit was on Saturday after Benson had been arrested. Police were called to check on Benson's teenage son, who was living with him.

Police asked the son if he needed anything and he told police he was packing his belongings to stay with his aunt and uncle, a police report states.

On Facebook, Benson says he has three sons.

Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief David Eubanks said Benson listed himself as being employed as a security guard with a Siskin facility, but authorities at Siskin hospital, Siskin Children's Institute and Siskin Steel & Supply Co. said he never was employed at their facilities.

Benson did work as a contracted security guard, Siskin employees said, but it was unclear for whom he worked.

Before becoming a security guard, Benson was a maintenance worker at Girls Preparatory School from 2003 to 2007, said school spokeswoman Anne Exum.

Funeral arrangements haven't been made for Mary Sue Benson and Johnson, officials said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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