The Murder of Garrett Benson

Jonathan Henry Watson murdered Garrett Benson in Cutten, California. While Watson was serving his sentence, he beat two fellow inmates with his cane. One inmate had been serving a sentence for sex trafficking while the second inmate had been serving a sentence for pedophilia.

The Death of Garrett Benson

Garrett Ryan Benson, 27, was a UPS driver. He had also been a member of the National Guard for nine years. He obtained the rank of sergeant and served in the Persian Gulf.

On the night of December 3, 2008, Benson and his girlfriend, Rachel Wold, were at Benson’s home when they heard a knock on the front door. When Benson answered the door, two armed men who wore masks met him. They forced their way into Benson’s home. A struggle ensued as Benson attempted to stop the home invasion. He was shot three times during the attack. The two masked men ran from the home. Benson was transported to a local hospital and passed away a few hours later as a result of his injuries.

When police and emergency services arrived, they discovered Benson had been growing marijuana and had a large amount prepared for sale. Investigators determined that the two men had presumably been attempting to rob Benson of the marijuana.

The Murder Suspects are Caught

On December 11, 2008, investigators from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, along with the assistance of the Redding Police Department and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Jonathan Watson in Cottonwood, California. They charged him with first-degree murder, false imprisonment, burglary, and robbery of an inhabited dwelling.

Jonathan Watson

The following day, on December 12, 2008, police arrested Jason Leon Belles, 31, at his residence in Redding, California. He was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, and robbery of an inhabited dwelling.

Belles accepted a plea deal, and a judge sentenced him to seven years and eight months for his part in the crimes against Benson. The judge explained during his sentence reflected him not entering Benson’s home or interact with the victims. He would also serve a three-year parole term and pay a $1,400 restitution fine.

A judge sentenced Jonathan Watson to 50 years to life sentence.

The Deaths of David Bobb and Graham Del Luis-Conti

Watson was transferred to the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California. At the time of his transfer, his living arrangements also changed from a single-cell environment to a dormitory setting. Watson had also filed grievances with the prison regarding his security classification being moved from Level III to Level II.

One week after being transferred, Watson had been in the common area, watching television with other inmates. One particular inmate, David Bobb, switched the television channel to PBS Kids. This was a problem for a few inmates due to the fact that Bobb had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 years old in San Diego County in 2005. The inmates later stated that they felt like Bobb was taunting them by turning on that television program.

Watson would later state “I could not sleep having not done what every instinct told me I should’ve done right then and there, so I packed all of my things because I knew one way or another the situation would be resolved the following day.”

Jonathan Watson (younger mugshot)

The following morning, January 15, 2020, Watson sought a prison counselor. He told the counselor that he needed to be transferred back to Level III, alluding to the fact that he might hurt another inmate if he was not moved. The counselor scoffed and denied his request.

Two hours later, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Watson encountered the same inmate, David Bobb, 48, from the previous day and once again, the inmate was watching PBS Kids. Several other inmates had also noticed the program choice. One of the inmates stated, “Is this guy really going to watch this right in front of us?” Watson replied “I got this” before picking up an unnamed inmate’s cane and delivering repeated blows to Bobb’s head in addition to stomping on his head.

When no guards appeared, Watson went to find one to report what he had done. While trying to locate a guard, Watson encountered a second inmate, Graham De Luis-Conti, 62, who was a convicted child sex trafficker. He beat De Luis-Conti with the same cane that he had used on Bobb. Watson left the second inmate and encountered a guard. He calmly reported his actions.

Bobb and De Luis-Conti were transported by ambulance to the prison’s medical facility. At approximately 4:00 p.m. David Bobb died while en route. Graham De Luis-Conti died three days later as a result of his injuries.

Jonathan Watson’s Letter to the Media

The Mercury News, a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper, made a request for a telephone interview with Jonathan Watson. The request was denied with the explanation that Watson could only communicate by mail because his phone privileges had been restricted and he had been placed in segregated housing as a result of the attacks. On February 20, 2020, Watson wrote an open confession letter to The Mercury News where he explained the entire series of events.

The Mercury News published Watson’s letter, which caused an outpouring of money and support to Watson for his actions. The amount of monetary deposits to Watson’s commissary account became so overwhelming that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation placed a block on deposits toward his account.

In a quote from his letter, Watson stated, “Being a lifer, I’m in a unique position where I sometimes have access to these people and I have so little to lose. And trust me, we get it. These people are every parent’s worst nightmare. These families spend years carefully and articulately planning how to give their children every opportunity that they never had, and one monster comes along and changes that child’s trajectory forever.”

The Aftermath

Jonathan Watson remains in the California State Prison system where he is serving his sentence. Jason Belles satisfied his sentence and currently lives in California.

Garrett Ryan Benson was entered the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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