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The Carthage Press
  • Couple pleads not guilty to murder

  • The Carthage couple accused of murdering Raymond Ritchhart in his home on Douglas Court on Dec. 7 made their first appearance in Jasper County Associate Circuit on Monday.
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  • The Carthage couple accused of murdering Raymond Ritchhart in his home on Douglas Court on Dec. 7 made their first appearance in Jasper County Associate Circuit on Monday.
    Brian Benefiel, 48, and his wife, Kelli Lynn Benefiel, 27, appeared before Judge Richard Copeland by video from the Jasper County Jail in Carthage and pleaded not guilty to charges of first degree murder, first degree burglary and armed criminal action.
    Kurt Benecke, with the Jasper County Prosecutor's Office, represented the state at the hearing. No attorney had been assigned to the couple as of this first appearance.
    Another hearing in the case has been set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29.
    Ritchhart, 87, a long time farmer in rural Jasper County just east of Jasper before moving to Carthage after retirement, was found dead in his home at 1237 Douglas Court on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
    A neighbor, checking on Ritchhart after family and friends said they hadn't seen him in several days, found him and called 9-1-1.
    Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan said the couple told investigators they entered Ritchhart's home at on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 7 to steal prescription medication. Dagnan said the two told investigators they beat and stabbed Ritchhart.
    Dagnan said the Tri-State Major Case Squad was called in and investigators from the Jasper County Sheriff's Office, Missouri State Highway Patrol (DDCC, Patrol and lab), Newton County Sheriff's Office, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office, Webb City Police Department, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Pittsburg Police Department, Joplin Police Department and Carthage Fire Department worked the case.
    The Benefiels were arrested on Dec. 12 and are currently being held in the Jasper County Jail in Carthage on $500,000 bond each.
    Editor's Note: This story was updated on Jan. 6, 2014 to correct a mistake. Kurt Benecke is with the Jasper County Prosecutor's Office and represented the state at the Dec. 16 arraignment.

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