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Ex-UI prof suspected in fatal shooting found dead

Tue., Aug. 23, 2011, 1:11 p.m.

BOISE — A former University of Idaho professor suspected in the shooting death of a graduate student was found dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a Moscow hotel, authorities said.

The body of Ernesto A. Bustamante, 31, was found today at the University Inn Best Western, the Moscow Police Department said in a statement. A warrant had been issued for Bustamante’s arrest after officers found a woman dead at a Moscow home late Monday, police Lt. Dave Lehmitz said.

Police identified the female victim as 22-year-old Katy Benoit, of Boise, during a press conference today. Benoit earned her undergraduate degree last year and started her first year as a graduate student in the psychology department this fall, according to the university.

Bustamante was an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Psychology and Communication, earning a base salary of $51,000 a year, when he resigned his position with the school last Friday. Bustamante had been with the school since August 2007 after graduating from Old Dominion University in Virginia with a doctorate in human factors psychology, according to his resume.

Police are still investigating how long Benoit and Bustamante knew each other, police Lt. Dave Lehmitz said.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports police could not confirm if the relationship between the two was strictly professional, though Idaho’s Dean of Students Bruce Pitman noted there was a university policy that bars faculty members from entering into romantic relationships with students.

Pittman declined to comment on why Bustamante resigned last week, the newspaper reported.

Classes started on the North Idaho campus Monday.

Police say Benoit was outside of her Moscow home when she was shot at about 8:40 p.m. that day. Benoit’s roommate was inside the residence at the time of the shooting, according to authorities, who were initially looking for a black 2010 Chrysler Sebring with Washington license ABW3726 that was seen leaving the scene.

Police named Bustamante as a suspect in the shooting early today and served a search warrant at a Moscow hotel, where police found Bustamante’s car, asking the public to avoid the area. Bustamante’s body was found at about 7:45 a.m. inside his hotel room.

“We are both shocked and saddened by these events. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to the victim’s family and friends,” the university said in a statement.

A ceremony to mark the start of the academic year was postponed today.

Bustamante has no prior criminal record in Idaho and court documents show a few traffic violations in Latah County, where the university is based.