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Renewed calls for information, $15,000 reward as efforts intensify to solve 1974 Berkshire County murder

A painting of Kim Benoit.
Berkshire County District Attorney's Office
A painting of Kim Benoit.

47 years after a teenager was found dead in Florida, Massachusetts, law enforcement officials are renewing their efforts to solicit information from the community. Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington says her office is putting up a $10,000 reward for anyone who contributes to the arrest and conviction of Kim Benoit’s murderer, alongside an additional $5,000 from the family of the deceased. Harrington spoke with WAMC Berkshire Bureau Chief Josh Landes about why she’s resuming the investigation almost half a century later.

HARRINGTON: Kim Benoit was born and raised in North Adams. She had attended Drury High School. At the time of her murder, she was 18 years old, and she was reported missing by her family in October of 1974. There were a number of sightings of her in the North Adams area between October and mid-November of 1974. And horrifically, her body was discovered on Saturday, November 16th, 47 years ago. And she was found along River Road down an embankment alongside the Deerfield River in Florida, Massachusetts. We can tell people the clothing that she was wearing at the time of her discovery- She was wearing blue pants, a white flower print blouse, brown shoes, dark socks, and a necklace.

WAMC: So why now? Why is the DA’s office reaching out for more information about this case all these years later?

Well, we are very committed to doing everything that we can to provide closure to Kim's family, which they deserve and need. And it's not just the family, but these kinds of horrific crimes against women ripple throughout the community and create trauma, and we are committed to doing everything that we can to bring the people who murdered Kim to justice. So we took the opportunity of the 47 year anniversary of the discovery of Kim's body to publicize this case, to reach out to the community, because we know that there are people in the community and particularly in the North Adams community that know what happened to Kim. And we are asking those people to do the right thing, and to come forward and to share what they know with the State Police assigned to my office or with the North Adams Police Department. And we are also now offering a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the people or person who is responsible for Kim's murder: The Berkshire District Attorney's Office is putting up $10,000, the family of Kim Benoit is putting up another $5,000. So it's a $15,000 total reward.

Let's say you had an actionable lead about a suspect. Could you convict someone for a murder that happened, at this point, many decades ago?

Oh, yes, yes, yes. There was no statute of limitations on homicide. So, we absolutely could get a conviction. And law enforcement has worked steadily on this case over the past 47 years. They certainly have leads that they have followed up on over the years, but we just haven't had enough to provide closure. So what I really want to urge people who have any information, even if you think that information might not be relevant, we want to know about it. Because sometimes, things are important and are relevant for law enforcement that people might not know or understand. So we really want to encourage people to come forward and share information.

Now, have you been in touch with Ms. Benoit's family? And if so, what are their feelings about this like all these years later?

Oh, yeah, yeah. So, we've been working very purposefully to reach out to the victims of families in unresolved cases. I've had a number of meetings with Ms. Benoit’s family, my office has had more meetings, and they're very committed to seeking justice for Kim. I mean, this is just as devastating for them today as it was 47 years ago when it happened. And we want to give Kim’s family and her mom in particular closure. She wants to know what happened to her daughter, and we're asking the community of North Adams to help us to provide that for her.

Now, you alluded to this earlier about the many years of work that have gone into this case- The press release specifically mentions a significant lead that was received by investigators almost 20 years ago in the early 00s. Can you speak at all to what this sort of – obviously, it's an ongoing investigation, I understand if some things are behind the wall, so to speak – but when we talk about a significant lead, what does that look like in a decades-old homicide?

You know, with these kinds of old cases, people can be motivated to come forward and to share information. As time passes, I think it can weigh on people's conscience. I think that sometimes, you know, certain people might pass away or die or move and so people feel freer to share information. That is not unusual in these older cases. I used to do post-conviction death penalty appeals, and those cases were decades-old as well, and people would be motivated to share new information with the passage of time. So, I can't speak specifically to the facts, because as you kind of alluded to in your question, it is putting information out into the public about an ongoing investigation, could compromise the investigation, and ultimately a prosecution in this case, which, of course, nobody wants us to do.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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