May 7, 2010 in City

Dishman Hills homicide suspect arraigned

Bail set at $500,000 in homeless man’s beating death
By The Spokesman-Review
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The man charged with bludgeoning a homeless man to death allegedly told a friend on the day of the killing that he had done something that would be on “the national news.”

Roland E. Benton, 34, appeared Thursday before Superior Court Judge Ellen Kalama Clark, who set his bail at $500,000. He’s charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing of 46-year-old Douglas J. Klages, whose body was found April 30 in the Dishman Hills Natural Area.

According to court records, Benton spent two days in the Spokane County Jail last week for domestic violence assault against his ex-girlfriend, her current boyfriend and a man who was painting his ex-girlfriend’s house. He was released April 29, the day before the murder.

After Klages’ body was found, investigators learned that he had been seen with another man at Truth Ministries and during a trip to a Spokane Valley Rosauers store. Witnesses later identified Benton as the man shown in video surveillance from both locations, Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Doug Marske wrote in court documents.

In both videos, Benton is shown wearing a blue and black checkerboard-pattern flannel jacket with a hood, blue jeans and white shoes. But when Detective Michael Drapeau found Benton at the House of Charity on Tuesday, Benton was not wearing any of the clothes seen on the videos.

“Benton … advised that he had been with Douglas Klages on the day of the murder but left him after they went to the Rosauers store in Spokane Valley. Benton claimed that he had never been to Klages’ camp in Dishman Hills, but when he was confronted changed his story, admitting that Klages had taken him to the camp,” Marske wrote.

On Wednesday, Drapeau later got a call from a man at Union Gospel Mission who said he saw Benton wearing the checkered jacket on April 30 and that “Benton was covered in blood, with blood on his hands and shirt,” Marske wrote. Benton told the man he had been in a fight.

Also on Wednesday, Drapeau spoke with Kathy Heier, a friend of Benton’s. She told Drapeau that she was driving home on April 30 and saw Benton standing near a field. She stopped and gave Benton a ride. At that time, she noticed blood on his ear, Marske said.

“Benton told her that he had done something that was going to be on the national news,” Marske wrote. “Benton asked (Heier) if she could keep a secret and then told her that he had beaten a man and thinks that he killed him.”

When Benton left Heier, he was carrying an electronic device that he told her that he wanted to pawn, Marske wrote.

Drapeau checked pawn sales and found that Benton had pawned a GPS device at Axel’s Pawn Shop on April 30. Drapeau checked the pawn shop’s surveillance video and Benton was wearing the same checkered jacket shown in the other two videos.

Klages, a Spokane native and father of two, had been in and out of shelters in the weeks before his death. He showed up at Truth Ministries extremely drunk the night before his death, employees said, but left after arguing with another guest.

Klages’ parents, Don and Karen Klages, said he battled alcoholism most of his life but wanted to get treatment.

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