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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coroner’s Office Says Katie Wilkins Tox Results Still Weeks Away

• Family Members Keep Up Drumbeat for Last Person Known to Have Seen Her to Come Forward

BY ANNE SOBLE

The official cause of death for Katherine Jessie Wilkins continues to be listed as deferred. Chief Coroner Investigator and Chief of Operations Craig Harvey of the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner told the Malibu Surfside News Tuesday that he “just heard back from the deputy medical examiner on this case [and] it appears that the toxicology is still 4-6 weeks out before final results will be available.”
Wilkins family members anxiously await the lab work with the hope that it will provide clues to what transpired the evening before April 28 when the body of the 25-year-old graphic designer that everyone called Katie was discovered by her brother on the garage floor of the family home she had moved back to last year after graduation.
Even as these family members deal with overriding grief, they continue to focus their attention on what has become their primary objective, the need for Christopher Benton, 27, the son of the president of Pepperdine University—whose drug troubled past intersected with Wilkins’ past at a time she wrestled with drugs before ostensibly getting them under control three years ago—to meet with law enforcement about the time he spent with Katie Wilkins the day before her death.
Katie Wilkins’ brother, Steve Wilkins, told The News this week, “My family has gotten a ton of meaningful support from the community that has been essential to our well-being since Katie’s death. The support remains of paramount importance given that our loss has been irreversibly complicated and abused by the actions of Chris Benton and those who have enabled his cover during this time.”
Steve Wilkins said, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel assigned to the case publicly agree, “It is a logical conclusion that Chris [Benton] was at our home and was the last person to share company with Katie during her life. Chris was only asked to answer some basic questions about his involvement with Katie hours before she died, so I was surprised when I learned of his actions following Katie’s death, and it then became troubling to realize that Chris’s actions meant he knew important information.”
The older brother added, “What exactly has Chris chosen to hide from the investigation that is so important that he has been hidden from questioning in rehab and further covered behind a highly regarded criminal defense attorney?”
The News emails Chris Benton’s attorney, Ron Lewis, on a weekly basis, to ask whether there has been a change of circumstances and is Benton available for an interview. The first email received a noncommittal response and the subsequent emails have not received any responses.
Steve Wilkins conjectures that Benton’s “texts to Katie on her last day indicate a number of important things: Chris was driving around with his father earlier in the day prior to meeting up with Katie; Chris lived back at home in Pepperdine; Chris was recently in an auto accident and without use of his car; and Chris was recently divorced.”
Wilkins queries, “What does this information mean and what can it reveal about what took place prior to Katie's death? It’s hard to know when Chris won’t speak. The Benton family has also kept silent, amongst other things, but particularly regarding the issue of why Chris is in rehab following Katie’s death. Chris’s texts [to Katie Wilkins] indicated he was clean from dope [as was she since approximately 2009], so I wonder if Chris lied to Katie, or if he was simply put in rehab to avoid questioning, or both.”
Providing additional insight into his sister’s condition when her body was discovered and an indication of a possible death timeline, Steve Wilkins said, “Katie’s hair was wet, which could indicate she was having a [medical] problem and someone tried to revive her.”
He continued, “That together with her body appearing to have been dragged, and the lack of any drug paraphernalia in the house, paints a pretty clear picture that someone was with Katie, knew she was in trouble, and made an intentional effort to cover their tracks rather than call 911. These choices demonstrate a consciousness of guilt, so I have to ask myself what really took place?”
Family members allege that Benton fled the Wilkins home in Katie Wilkins’ silver BMW when the young woman experienced an adverse heroin reaction, or was already dead.
Regarding possible heroin overdose as the cause of death, Wilkins family members raise the issue of whether someone else administered the drugs to Katie Wilkins and speculate whether that drug use by her was voluntary. It has been confirmed with the LASD detectives on the case that needle marks were found on Wilkins’ right arm and the young woman was right-handed.
Instead of watching more pieces of the complex puzzle surrounding Katie Wilkins’ death fall into place, the puzzle seems to be expanding its borders on a regular basis.
If forensic test results are up to six weeks away, one wonders whether any progress can be made in filling in pieces of the puzzle until then. If, as family members contend, the person who might be able to provide missing puzzle pieces, refuses to do so, it’s not clear what can happen next.



ACCOMPLISHMENT—Katie Wilkins was excited about the future. The Malibu High School graduate had received a degree with honors from the Art Institute of California in Orange County last year. She then moved back to the family home in eastern Malibu and began establishing a graphic design business.

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