‘After failing once to cut off his injured leg with a chain saw, Benjamin R. Hull tried to shoot it off with a shotgun and then accepted state Department of Labor and Industries benefits for the injury.”
Here’s a ghastly tale guaranteed to give you chills next time you try to wrestle that cantankerous carving knife through the ol’ holiday turkey.
State Division III Appeals Court Judge Phil Thompson’s recent above-quoted decision to overturn the Yakima-area man’s insurance fraud conviction reads like a gore-soaked horror novel.
“Some subject matter is more inspiring than others,” agrees the Spokane jurist, who adds that in 13 years on the bench he has not encountered anything remotely as weird as the saga of Benjamin Hull.
Yet, it’s all unbelievably true.
Hull became convinced amputation was the way to end the chronic pain he suffered after his left knee was crushed at work in 1973 by a 50-gallon barrel of hog parts.
When doctors rejected this radical solution, the idea “just kind of grew on me,” Hull told the court. “I just figured that if (the leg) was gone, what isn’t there wouldn’t hurt.”
Hull, a squatty, 260-pound oboe player, realized he couldn’t whack his leg off by himself. So not once, but two times he talked his best pal, Robin Morrison, into lending a hand.
Most buddies won’t help you move, let alone remove a limb. But “Morrison loved Ben,” says Hull’s attorney, Adam Moore. “Ben helped Morrison when he was down and out.”
The duo’s first botched operation took place in the winter of 1985.
The pair drove to the Yakima Valley boonies supposedly on a wood-gathering venture. After cutting enough timber to make their cover story sound plausible, Hull sprawled his hefty frame on a log and told his chum to begin the chain saw massacre.
Morrison attacked his grisly job with the dedication of Paul Bunyan, but the saw’s whirring teeth jammed as they chewed into bone. Still two-legged, Hull was treated at an emergency room.
For several years, the man limped along on morphine pills supplied by his mother. When she died of cancer, his drug source dried up and Hull hatched an even stranger scheme.
Buying a 16-gauge shotgun, he decided to stage a holdup at the Sunnyside market where he worked.
Morrison agreed to assist in the shotgun-ectomy. Resting the stock on his hip, he let Hull place the barrel against the offending leg and pull the trigger.
The scene after that midnight blast on Jan. 2, 1991, must have been beyond surreal.
“There was a real big noise and then it was quiet,” Morrison told the court. “And then there was a gurgling sound ‘cause his blood was … and there was a big hole in his leg.”
Morrison waited for Hull to dial 911 before skedaddling to ditch the weapon in a nearby river. Hull was moved to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. What was left of his leg was amputated - this time in a professional manner.
Now pain-free, Hull would be a sympathetic character were it not for a couple of nasty details:
He pinned his self-inflicted gunshot on imaginary Mexican bandits. He even gave a police sketch artist enough of a description to concoct a fictitious assailant.
Racial tension in Sunnyside soared until Hull confessed his dark deed more than a year after the shooting. By then, he had clipped Washington taxpayers for about 100 grand in medical bills and benefits.
In 1993, a jury deadlocked on a theft charge, but found Hull guilty of bilking Labor and Industries. Last month, our appellate court reversed the conviction because - get this - prosecutors inadvertently left the word “required” out of the formal fraud charge.
The judges ruled that this single word was constitutionally essential to establishing intent of the crime.
If the state Supreme Court upholds the reversal, a likely event, the public must again pay to bring Benjamin Hull to justice.
I hope it happens, because this guy doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
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