Authorities have confirmed that the son of Pepperdine University president Andrew K. Benton was the last known person to see 25-year-old graphic designer Katie Wilkins alive. Wilkins’ body was discovered by her brother in the garage of her parents’ home in east Malibu April 28, and her car was missing. Lt. Tim O’Quinn of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department homicide bureau said Wednesday that the last person known to have seen Wilkins alive was 27-year-old Christopher Benton. The case has been ruled as non-suspicious and toxicology results are currently pending at the L.A. County Office of Coroner’s office to determine cause of death. O’Quinn said the cause of death was “probably an [drug] overdose.”
Benton has retained an attorney and has not spoken to authorities, O’Quinn said. Since Wilkins’ death has been ruled non-suspicious, Benton is not currently considered a suspect for a crime. Rob Wilkins, the father of Katie Wilkins, told The Malibu Times last week he had unsuccessfully tried to contact Benton. Wilkins said he had heard Benton checked into a rehab facility on April 28, but The Malibu Times was unable to confirm and O’Quinn said he did not known Benton’s whereabouts.
Andrew K. Benton issued a statement to the media Wednesday afternoon.
“In this case I am just Andy, father of someone who knew Katie and her family. Pepperdine has absolutely nothing to do with this. To suggest otherwise is merely sensationalism.
“My wife and I hold the Wilkins family in very high regard and are deeply pained by their loss. Illegal substances are a scourge on society and they have hurt many wonderful families in Malibu. If anything, I hope this devastating situation will underscore the damage that drugs have had on some of our best and brightest.”
Benton continued, “I don’t really know anything. Period. I would like to be helpful, but I don’t know n really know n anything beyond what I am reading in the press.”
Pepperdine University issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon in an email from spokesman Jerry Derloshon:
“The University regards this as a personal matter. The event occurred off campus and is unrelated to the University. Law enforcement’s investigation is still on-going. The facts in this terribly sad case will develop over time, but the result will be the same: a young woman lost her life, and her family lost a daughter and a sister. It is tragic for all involved.”
Wilkins was found unresponsive by her brother, Steve Wilkins, in her parents’ garage on the evening of Sat., April 28. Security cameras showed Wilkins picking up Benton at the McDonald’s restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway at 8:33 p.m. on the night of Fri., April 27, O’Quinn said. The pair had exchanged text messages earlier that evening and Benton left a voicemail on Wilkins’ phone explaining that he did not have a car and needed a ride. The two had apparently been friends in the past but had lost touch before reconnecting about a week prior to the incident.
O’Quinn said “there may have been some narcotics activity between them in the past, from what I’m being told.” O’Quinn said he had been told in the course of his investigation that Wilkins had had substance abuse issues in the past, but that she “had been doing pretty well for the last year.”
Other media outlets have reported that Wilkins, a 25-year-old graphic designer, was staying at her parents home at 23400 Moon Shadow Drive for the weekend and that they were out of town.
In a series of comments posted on the website websleuths.com, a man identifying himself as Steve Wilkins said his sister had had substance abuse issues in the past with cocaine and heroin.
Wilkins wrote at 9:23 p.m. Sunday, “At this time I believe Katie died of a heroin overdose, the investigation revealed strong indications of this.” Wilkins also said the initial sheriff’s investigation “revealed strong indications that the injection was not self administered.”
Wilkins also wrote on the website that his sister’s keys were missing from the home as well as her vehicle, a silver 1998 BMW Z3, and that the sheriff’s investigation found no evidence of drug paraphernalia at the home.
Wilkins wrote that he did not have confirmation of the time of his sister’s death, but that it was “certainly” between Friday night and noon on Saturday. After looking in his sister’s phone, Wilkins wrote that the last text message he saw from Benton was at 1:13 p.m. on Sat., April 28. According to Steve Wilkins, the message read, “Wut happened? was that ur brother? Lemme kno that ur alrite. have a good day”
Katie Wilkins’ car had remained missing since the incident, but was found in the Thousand Oaks area Wednesday and was held for fingerprints at a tow yard, O’Quinn said.
The only connection Benton currently has with the case, O’Quinn said, is the text messages he exchanged with Wilkins and the security camera at McDonald’s.
“That’s the only connection I can put him with her at that time,” O’Quinn said. “I mean, the logical speculation is that he was with her when she died and that he took the car, but I don’t have any confirmation of that.”