Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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County to bury Marine who faked his death

Shunned by siblings who buried him once and daughters he sexually abused, disgraced Marine Staff Sgt. Arthur Bennett will be buried Tuesday in a pauper's grave.

Bennett faked his own death in February 1994 when he faced court-martial charges for sexually assaulting children of fellow Marines. Family members turned out then to bury the remains of a man found in a burned trailer, a man thought to be Bennett.

They're not likely to return when Bennett is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, on the edge of the downtown district, without ceremony Tuesday afternoon. Clark County taxpayers will pick up the $720 tab.

"Death does strange things," Jean Hites of Hites Funeral Home said Monday. "It either makes you very angry or very sad. The family knows what has happened. We all have to do what we have to do. They think they've done enough."

Two of Bennett's brothers, Scott, 39, and David, 41, and his mother, Ellen, 67, have declined to be responsible for funeral services. So has his ex-wife, Amelia, 45. The four face federal conspiracy charges in connection with $200,000 in military insurance benefits paid to the family when Bennett was declared dead in the trailer fire.

Family members have said Bennett told them he was a government operative being used to kill drug lords, and the military faked his death to provide him a new identity.

Hites said a brother and sister in California talked of providing funeral arrangements, then backed off.

If a body is not claimed within 30 days, the county pays the cost of burial in a pauper's grave.

Bennett hanged himself with a bedsheet in his Clark County Detention Center cell July 12, a day before he faced a new court-martial here on sexual assault and desertion charges.

Hites said the 30-day period was waived when it became apparent the family would take no responsibility for the burial.

"The county said go ahead because nobody was stepping forward and it didn't look like they would," Hites said. "At least this gives some closure."

After the ashes believed to be those of Bennett were buried at a veterans cemetery in Boulder City, Nev., Bennett moved to tiny Hurricane, Utah, with his ex-wife and three young daughters, changing his name to Joe Benson.

The ruse was discovered on Halloween 1997 when Bennett was arrested on charges of sexually molesting two of his teen-age daughters and one of their friends. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was serving time in Utah when he was transferred here to face another Marine court-martial.

He also faced trial in Las Vegas next February on murder and other charges in connection with the trailer fire death. The victim has never been identified and authorities say that identity may be buried with Bennett.