A man who was bleeding to death used a flip phone to send a confusing single-word text message that police later unscrambled to find the name of his killer.
That clue and other facts have been admitted by a man and woman who have now pleaded guilty to the killing.
Steven Lee Gregory and Lisa Phyllis Bunn both pleaded guilty to manslaughter this week. Both admit to being intoxicated at the time of the killing.
They have admitted to killing 59-year-old Stanley Benn at his home on the Birdtail Sioux First Nation on July 8, 2016.
While he denies trying to kill Benn, Gregory has admitted to causing the injuries that led to his death. Bunn admitted to taking part by grabbing the victim and hitting him.
The Dakota Ojibway Police Service and RCMP Serious Crime Unit investigated the death. The following series of events that led to the killing are provided in an agreed statement of facts and an RCMP report.
Police had been given a warning of trouble at 6:30 p.m. on the day of the killing.
A belligerent male, who wouldn’t identify himself, called 911 and told the dispatcher that DOPS needed to do its job and arrest Benn for sexual assaults against children. He threatened to take matters into his own hands.
Police tried to call the number back, but there was no answer.
Following the killing, Gregory admitted to police that he had been that caller.
About 75 minutes after that first 911 call, there was another. This one notified police of a possible homicide at Benn’s home.
Two days earlier, Bunn had made a complaint of sexual assault against Benn, accusing him of sexually assaulting her young daughters.
The day of the killing, Bunn’s daughters had provided statements about the alleged assaults by Benn.
Initially, before she was a suspect, Bunn told police that she and her daughters got home to Birdtail around 6 p.m. and her nephew, Gregory, and others were drinking at their home.
Bunn told police that she didn’t see Gregory leave the house and that she didn’t leave, either. She said she made spaghetti and popcorn and the people at the home watched a movie.
She claimed that they noticed the lights of police cars and the ambulance at Benn’s house and wondered what was going on.
Bunn now admits that actually what happened was that she had gone to Benn’s home with her daughters and drank beer with Benn. Gregory arrived shortly after.
Gregory and Bunn attacked Benn, although the agreed statement of fact doesn’t specify how, or whether a weapon was used.
Police later seized a knife from Bunn’s home, where Gregory also lived. While it possibly had Benn’s DNA on it, there’s nothing to confirm that it was used in the assault.
Benn was bleeding badly, but was still alive when Gregory and Bunn left his house, taking some of Benn’s beer with them. Benn was able to send a series of text messages to friends and family members before he died.
In one of those messages, Benn told the recipient that he had been beaten and asked the man to call an ambulance. The man texted Benn back to ask who had beaten him, and Benn responded with a single word that didn’t make sense: "Samoay."
That nonsensical word would later turn out to be a clue.
After receiving the text, the witness looked outside to see Bunn, her two daughters and a man walking away from Benn’s home toward Bunn’s. Other witnesses had also seen Bunn and Gregory at Benn’s residence.
Benn had also texted his niece for help. She and her husband went to his home and found him sitting at the kitchen table and covered in blood. He didn’t have a pulse, and they went to a neighbouring home and asked the resident to call police.
While the niece and others waited at Benn’s home for police, Gregory showed up, pretending not to know what happened and he was told someone had killed Benn. One of the onlookers then gave him a ride home.
The next day he was arrested for an aggravated assault he was wanted for and taken to jail. After further investigation, on July 11, 2016, he was arrested while at jail for the killing.
He didn’t admit to the killing, but bloody palm prints left at the scene were found to be his.
An autopsy determined that Benn bled to death from multiple sharp- and blunt-force injuries. He had a pre-existing condition in his arteries and an enlarged heart that contributed to his death.
His injuries included seven stab wounds — to his arm, leg and buttocks. His facial bones had several fractures.
Police noted there was blood throughout Benn’s home, and it appeared there’d been a struggle.
Investigators seized Benn’s flip-style cellphone from the kitchen table. It used T9 texting, with the number keys corresponding to letters used to spell words.
That’s where that "Samoay" text message — the one Benn sent to the witness who had asked who had beaten him — becomes important.
Police determined that the numbers Benn used to type "Samoay" on his phone — 726629 — are the same keys used to type "Scooby," which is Gregory’s nickname.
Bunn and Gregory entered their guilty pleas to manslaughter on Monday, as their preliminary hearing had been set to begin.
Sentencing has been set for a later date.
Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup will seek nine to 10 years in prison for Gregory, minus time in custody. For Bunn, he’ll seek four to five years in prison, minus time in custody.