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UI officials met with Benoit before her killing

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 26, 2011, 2 p.m.

University of Idaho officials met with Kathryn “Katy” Benoit on the day she was killed and cautioned her to remain vigilant and keep in contact with the Moscow Police Department, according to the university.

In a news release issued today, UI President M. Duane Nellis also announced that he has directed university attorneys to seek court approval for the release of personnel information from former professor Ernesto Bustamante, who shot Benoit 11 times on Monday outside her Moscow apartment.

“This tragic situation has brought a profound sadness to our entire community,” Nellis said in the release. “We must continue to do everything we can to protect our students and our campus community. For that reason, I am asking for an independent review of the university’s policies and procedures to ensure that we are doing the very best job we possibly can.”

Nellis wrote that the university “is committed to full public disclosure of all related documents, as it gains authority to release them.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Katy Benoit,” Nellis continued in his news release. “We understand their desire to have a full accounting of the circumstances that led to Katy’s death. I intend to do everything I can to answer their questions. A tragedy has occurred and we all want answers.”

In a separate news release today, Moscow Police said the search of the hotel room where Bustamante is believed to have committed suicide found six guns, including the .45 caliber pistol they believe Bustamante used to shoot Benoit. They also found several prescriptions used to treat depression, extreme anxiety and bipolar disorder.

According to new details released by the university, Benoit first told university officials of her past relationship and current concerns about Bustamante on June 10. At that time, the unnamed officials urged Benoit to take safety precautions and contact the Moscow Police Department. They also provided her with personal contact information for police and directed her to an organization that helps victims of domestic violence.

The “university also contacted (the) Moscow Police Department directly,” according to the news release.

Some three days later, on June 13, Benoit sent the university an e-mail indicating she had called police. The next day, Benoit sent an e-mail saying she didn’t want the university to serve Bustamante with her complaint “before discussing it further.”

Then on July 6, university officials informed Benoit by e-mail that her complaint had been sent to Bustamante along with a letter detailing possible university policy violations. “It had been held until this date at her request.”

The school officials again cautioned Benoit to seek help, including calling Moscow Police if she “ever felt the need. She was also told that Bustamante had been directed by the university to have not contact with her.” She was told to contact the university immediately if he did, according to the news release.

Then on July 8, according to records released today by Moscow Police, Bustamante filed a formal complaint with university officials alleging that Benoit was trying to defame his character. He disclosed a personal relationship with Benoit, which police learned began in fall of 2010 while she was his student in a psychology class.

The police statement indicated that Benoit personally spoke with Lt. Dave Lehmitz, who cautioned her about safety techniques and told her to call police if she felt threatened.

On July 14, the University Threat Assessment Team, including local police representatives, met to discuss the level of risk to Benoit and others involved in the Bustamante investigation. They also met with Benoit to go over Bustamante’s response to her complaint and notify her that investigators would be interviewing the professor on July 19. They recommended “she stay somewhere other than her apartment to avoid contact.”

Then on the day she was killed, school officials met with Benoit to inform her that Bustamante’s last day of employment was last Friday.

“She was cautioned to remain vigilant and get assistance from the police and others if she had any safety concerns,” the news release states. The “university also encouraged Benoit to remain in contact with university representatives and take advantage of university support services.”

Moscow Police said in a press release that they found records indicating that “Bustamante had secured employment in the state of New Jersey and was in the process of relocating.” He was planning to move on Aug. 24, the release said.

Benoit was shot and killed on Aug. 22 at 8:40 p.m. outside her apartment at 112 S. Lily St. in Moscow.

According to court records, Bustamante, 31, had alternately referred to himself as a “psychopathic killer” and “the beast” and later shot himself at a nearby motel as officers surrounded the location.

The university previously indicated that Bustamante was allowed to resign effective last Friday.

Nellis indicated he was allowed to release Benoit’s records after a review of Idaho law showed that her personal records protection ends at death.

However, it appears the same records laws do exend after death for Bustamante’s personnel records.

“To clarify how public records statutes should be applied to this situation, the university will ask for a legal determination from the courts regarding what records it could release related to Bustamante,” the news release states.

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