Hometown Part 1: Last Days of Summer – FBI Report

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(From “The Belford Incident”, an FBI internal report dated October 8, 1997)

To the best of our knowledge, the first death connected to the Belford Incident was Lila Ann Benson: female, Caucasian, daughter of Lyle and Audrey Benson, aged sixteen at time of death. 

Victim was last seen alive on August 19, 1994, leaving for a date with Jeremy Lawrence Zerschmitt, Caucasian male, also aged sixteen.  His car was found the following day by local high school students.  It had been both concealed and vandalized, and blood spatter indicated that the attack had taken place within one meter of the driver’s-side door (see Appendix I for crime scene photos).  Victim’s body was found on August 22 in the woods to the North of Black Lake, approximately one-quarter of one mile from the crime scene. 

Victim’s wounds indicate that she attempted to struggle.  Defensive wounds were extensive, with hands and arms apparently removed in progressive chunks.  It is these wounds that led to the conclusion that J. Zerschmitt was to be treated as a potential additional victim instead of a suspect; bones were not sawed or hacked but severed with powerful singular blows, of which Zerschmitt was not capable.  Wounds were consistent with a curved, extremely sharp object such as a scythe or sickle (see Appendix I for photos and analysis of victim’s wounds, with particular attention to the wounds to the throat and abdomen).    

Semen was found in the victim’s vaginal tract, but this was determined to belong to J. Zerschmitt, with all indications being that they had consensual intercourse before the attack.  No other signs of sexual assault. 

Oddly, despite being disemboweled, dismembered and left in the woods for several days in late summer, Victim’s body was untouched by scavengers or insects.  Body was tested for chemicals that might have repelled or poisoned such creatures, but none were found.

J. Zerschmitt’s Missing Persons case remained open until January 13, 1996, long after the Belford Incident had ended, when an ice fisherman on Black Lake snagged his remains.  His body was heavily decomposed, but he was clearly a victim of an animal attack instead of a homicide, as per Benson.  His wounds do not match the bite or claw patterns of any known large animal, though they do match those found on several other Belford Incident victims.

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