Court documents filed by V.I. Police have shed more light on the investigation into the murder of V.I. Army National Guard Sgt. Ian Benjamin Sr., including a possible motive.
Two people are charged in the case — Ta’Jhanique Cumberbatch, 22, of Estate Betsy’s Jewel, St. Croix, and Sharif Matthew of Morningstar, St. Croix.
Cumberbatch was arrested just over a week after Benjamin was shot and killed on March 2 and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, third-degree assault, carrying a firearm openly or concealed during the commission of a crime, possession of ammunition and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Matthew was arrested on a warrant Friday and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, unauthorized possession of a firearm in a vehicle, discharging or aiming a firearm, and conspiracy.
If convicted, Matthew is facing the possibility of life in prison without parole.
Unable to post $1 million bail, Matthew was held in jail until his advice-of-rights hearing Monday before V.I. Superior Court Judge Darryl Donohue. Matthew remains jailed pending a bail hearing set for Wednesday.
Charging documents for Cumberbatch were not made public, and the affidavit filed by police to support the arrest warrant for Matthews provides new details about the case.
Benjamin himself called 911 just after 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 2, and said he had been shot in his home in Estate Carlton, St. Croix.
Police responded and found Benjamin with a gunshot wound to his face, and he “stated that a male and a female came to his house and shot him,” according to the affidavit.
Benjamin was transported to Luis Hospital via ambulance, where doctors worked to save his life. Benjamin had been shot in the face, neck and right elbow, and a doctor told police that he “had a bullet close to his heart and that they were trying to stabilize him in order to transport him off-island.”
Benjamin died in the hospital at 3:08 p.m.
Police collected shell casings from the scene, and reviewed video footage that showed an Acura TL drive by Benjamin’s house and circle back and park behind some bushes. A woman with a limp came out of the bushes and approached the house with a tall man, who “pointed and appears to discharge shots toward Mr. Benjamin residence then ran back to the vehicle,” according to the affidavit.
The tall man was later identified as Matthew, according to the affidavit.
The woman’s name is redacted from the document.
Police recognized the Acura — and the woman it belonged to — and learned that “she has confided in a friend about a relationship with Mr. Ian Benjamin Sr.,” according to the affidavit.
At 8 p.m. on the day of the murder, police obtained a search warrant for the woman’s home and vehicle, and made contact with her and Matthew, whose physical descriptions matched those of the two people in the surveillance video, according to the affidavit.
Police interviewed the woman, and asked if she was familiar with Benjamin.
According to the affidavit, “she did not answer, but instead look at me with a smirk.”
The officer told the woman that they had heard a report of domestic violence between her and Benjamin, “and she replied, ‘So they ain’ tell you he likes to rape too.’”
The woman “then burst into tears,” and when police asked if she wanted to make a report about the rape, “she looked at me through tears and smirk again,” according to the affidavit.
She declined to give a statement and asked for a lawyer, according to the affidavit.
Police also interviewed Matthew, who said he and the woman had been at the apartment together from 10:30 a.m. to approximately 2 p.m. on March 2. Police advised him of his constitutional right to remain silent, and he declined to provide a statement, according to the affidavit.
Investigators reviewed the surveillance footage again on March 9 and noticed damage to the bumper consistent with the Acura photographed in front of the woman’s apartment, according to the affidavit.
On March 9, police obtained a search warrant for a second vehicle on the woman’s property, a gold Ford Escape. They found 26 .40 caliber rounds, two boxes containing a total of “223 rem 55 grain American Eagle” rounds, a .40 caliber extended clip and a .40 caliber magazine, both of which were empty, according to the affidavit.
“The live ammunition found in the Ford Escape were of the same brand as the spent shell casings recovered from the crime scene,” according to the affidavit.