RGV True Crime: John Doe identified 28 years later, murder remains unsolved

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EDINBURG, TEXAS (KVEO)—A mother is someone who will love you unconditionally. Almost two decades later, a mother was able to put her son to rest, but his death remains unsolved.

Benjamin Benetti was described as a handsome 19-year-old man from Zion, Illinois.

On May 8, 1992, Bennetti’s body was found by irrigation workers in a ditch, north of FM 2812 near Val Verde Road.

On May 8, 1992, Bennetti’s body was found by irrigation workers. Credit: Hidalgo County Major Crimes Unit

The autopsy results showed he had been stabbed about a week before he was discovered.

“Benetti had been a John Doe until last year,” said Hermelinda Chavez with the Hidalgo County Major Crimes Unit. “Law enforcement found the body, it was already decomposed and they couldn’t determine who he was.”

According to Chavez, Benetti was in the Rio Grande Valley to marry a 17-year-old girl from McAllen.

He met the young lady while her parents were sent to Illinois for work.

“He introduced the girl, he told his mom that he was going to marry her in the Valley,” said Chavez. “The mom took a picture of him with his fiancé, he left, and that was the last time she ever saw him.”

That was in March 1992.

Benjamin Benetti, 1992 (Credit: Hidalgo County Major Crimes Unit)

A week after Benetti’s body was discovered, his mom received a call from a mechanic in the Rio Grande Valley.

“The mechanic told the mom Benetti had left his car in the shop to get fixed and he never picked it up,” said Chavez. “The car had nothing, just the mother’s phone number on a paper.”

His mother started filing missing person reports with several local police departments, but no one connected Benetti to the body found near Val Verde Road.

“The mother never filed a report with the Sheriff’s office, she filed it with McAllen and Donna PD,” said Chavez. “She received letters from the police departments saying ‘I’m sorry’ because they couldn’t find any information.”

Benetti’s fiancé was contacted by police after his mother reported him missing.

The 17-year-old told them Benetti had received a phone call and told her he needed to go to Mexico. That was the last time she saw him.

“The girl never reported Benjamin missing because her family made fun of her,” said Chavez. “The family told her Benjamin had left and used her.”

The 17-year-old told police she never made contact with Benetti’s mother.

“She said she didn’t have the mom’s number,” said Chavez.

Looking for closure, Benetti’s mother submitted her DNA to The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a national resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases.

“A year or maybe two years after the mom did that, someone called her saying her DNA had matched with a John Doe,” said Chavez. “It ended up being our John Doe.”

Benetti’s mother saved all the documents, phone records, letters she sent to all local law enforcement agencies, telephone bills, in hopes to find her son.

Letters sent to Benetti’s mother from local police, 1996. Credit: Hidalgo County Major Crimes Unit

“She never gave up, she was determined to find him,” said Chavez. “She got the call no parent wants to get, but at the same, she got closure.”

When investigators notified his fiancé they had confirmed Benetti was John Doe, she told investigators she had never thought he was dead, let alone that someone had murdered him.

The mother has retrieved Benetti’s remains from the Hill Crest Cemetery in Edinburg to give him a proper funeral.

Benetti was buried in Maple Park Cemetery.

On his grave, Bennetti is described as kind and caring, a fine young man who his family will always love and never forget.

If you have any information on this suspect or this case, please call the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office at 956-383-8114. You can call anonymously to the Hidalgo County Crime Stoppers hotline at 956-668-8477. If the information provided through the Crime Stoppers hotline leads to an arrest, you may qualify for a reward.

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