U.S.

'I Didn't Want to Be Next': Man Convicted of Killing Wife After 7-Year-Old Daughter Said She Saw Dead Body

A Missouri man whose young daughter told her school counselor that she had witnessed her mother's dead body was convicted this week of murdering his wife.

On Friday, a jury in Jackson County, Missouri, found Benjamin Byers, 46, guilty of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and child endangerment, according to court records. His conviction came about a year and a half after the body of his wife, Melissa Byers, 47, was found in the basement of their Kansas City home.

In November 2017, the couple’s 7-year-old daughter told a school counselor that she saw a dead body in their basement, according to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office. The school notified the police, who visited Benjamin at his home. He claimed he didn’t know where his wife was, but officers found drops of blood in the house.

Officers also saw blood on the walls of the living room, kitchen, and the base of the basement steps. Investigators also noticed drag markings and noticed that a large section of the carpet in the dining room was removed.

During a conversation with investigators, KSHB reported the young girl said she hadn’t seen her mother for a few days and her father was acting strange when he picked her up from school. She reiterated that she saw a dead body and claimed it was wearing her mother’s clothes -- also, the body had a knife in her back.

When officers searched the basement, they confirmed what the 7-year-old saw and found Melissa’s body covered with carpet, plastic, sheets, and clothing. The medical examiner later ruled the victim’s death was a homicide caused by multiple stab wounds.

benjamin byers missouri murder wife daughter saw body Crime scene tape is stretched around the front of a home where a man was shot on May 28, 2017, in Chicago. On Friday, a man in Missouri was convicted of killing his wife. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Investigators asked the child if she told her father what she saw in the basement and she responded that she didn’t because she was afraid.

“I didn’t want to be next,” the 7-year-old said, according to KSHB.

Before Melissa was killed, she struggled with addiction but turned her life around. The two were allegedly separated, but the Kansas City Star reported Melissa allowed Benjamin to move in with her temporarily.

“She was a beautiful woman inside and out,” addiction recovery program, Healing House, Director Bobbi Jo Reed told the Kansas City Star. “Such a kind, loving spirit. Everybody loved her.”

After his arrest, Benjamin was charged with several crimes, including the murder of his wife, which he pleaded not guilty to, according to court records. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 19 and in Missouri, first-degree murder is a class A felony and is punishable by either death or life in prison without the eligibility for probation or parole.

Crystal O’Connor, Melissa’s adult daughter, told the Kansas City Star that she traveled from her home in Oklahoma City to Kansas City to pick up her little sister.

“I’m bringing her back to my home in OKC to raise her as my mom would have liked,” O’Connor said

 

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