Benjamin Bonner looks at defense attorney Harry Gasnick during Bonner’s first appearance in Clallam County Superior Court on Friday on charges of second-degree murder, animal cruelty and theft of a motor vehicle. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Benjamin Bonner looks at defense attorney Harry Gasnick during Bonner’s first appearance in Clallam County Superior Court on Friday on charges of second-degree murder, animal cruelty and theft of a motor vehicle. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Bail at $1.5 million for Bainbridge man after Sequim woman found bludgeoned to death

PORT ANGELES — Bail has been set at $1.5 million for an 18-year-old Bainbridge High School student who allegedly confessed to bludgeoning to death a 71-year-old Sequim-area woman while she told him she loved him.

A probable-cause statement filed Friday in Clallam County Superior Court described the woman, Cynthia Little of Sunland Golf &Country Club, as a grandmother figure to student Benjamin George Bonner.

Little’s body was discovered in her bedroom in the 100 block of Hurricane Ridge Drive at about noon Thursday by Bonner’s parents, according to the report written by Sheriff’s Detective Brian Knutson.

Bonner confessed to striking Little 15 times with a fireplace poker in her living room while she said “ ‘I love you,’ over and over,” according to the arrest report.

Little “tried to attack him by grabbing at him; which he demonstrated as a hugging motion,” according to the statement.

Bonner said nothing of the sort in the Superior Court hearing Friday.

“I would never want to kill my aunt,” Bonner told Judge Christopher Melly.

“I love her to death.”

Bonner also was arrested for investigation of animal cruelty for allegedly killing Little’s dog and for theft for allegedly stealing Little’s car.

The Jack Russell terrier’s name was Jack, Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King said.

Melly on Friday set the bail based on “the brutal nature” of the crime and the threat to community safety posed by Bonner’s potential release.

He also placed a 72-hour Clallam County jail hold on Bonner, ordered him to undergo a mental evaluation to determine whether he was dangerous to himself and others, and set a 1 p.m. Tuesday hearing for the formal filing of charges.

Bonner, who was taking anti-psychotic medication, had been released Wednesday from a facility after receiving a psychological evaluation for threatening his mother and abusing the family cat, according to the arrest report.

Since 2009, Little, who lived alone, had been a member of the county Court Appointed Special Advocates program for foster care children who have been abused and neglected, county CASA program coordinator Valerie Brooks said Saturday.

“She just loved everybody equally, and she had such a passion for children,” Brooks said. “She has many children, but none of her own.”

Authorities were still processing evidence at Little’s home late Friday afternoon, Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said.

Clallam County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Little’s home after Peninsula Communications received a call at 12:39 p.m. Thursday from Bonner’s parents, Harold Bonner and Ursula Rosin.

Little had phoned them Wednesday to say that their son, who had taken his parents’ vehicle without their permission that same day, was at her home and that he was going to spend the night there, according to the arrest report.

Little “was like a grandmother figure to Benjamin,” according to the report.

Bonner’s parents drove to Sunland on Thursday thinking their son and the vehicle were still at Little’s, and found their SUV in the driveway but Little’s car gone.

Upon entering Little’s unlocked house midday Thursday, they discovered Little’s remains lying on the bedroom floor with a wound on the back of her head, her deceased dog lying next to her and and a fireplace poker next to her, according to the report.

Bonner was arrested without incident by Bainbridge Island police, who were waiting for him at about 6 p.m. Thursday outside his parents’ Northeast Sunny Circle home on Bainbridge Island after they saw Little’s car parked at the residence, Police Chief Matthew Hamner said Friday.

Bonner also strangled the dog, which lay motionless before waking up, then killed it with the poker, he told Knutson.

Bonner, diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder and believed to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, had recently received pain medication and had his anti-psychotic medication adjusted around April 30.

Since the adjustment, he had been hearing voices, suffering hallucinations and said his best friend was an android, according to the report.

Harold Bonner and Ursula Rosin had adopted Benjamin when he was 1 year old from Russia.

On May 2, he threatened Ursula with a pencil while telling her she was not his mother, according to the arrest report.

Shortly after the incident, she discovered him physically abusing a cat, police said.

He was subsequently taken to a facility for a psychological assessment and released Wednesday morning.

He took his parents’ SUV at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, according to court documents.

Little called them 3½ hours later to say Benjamin had driven into her driveway, then driven off, and that she was going to look for him.

She called them back at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday to say that “she had Benjamin at her house and was going to have him stay the night,” according to the arrest report.

On Thursday evening, neighbors of Little shared their recollections of her.

“She was a lovely woman,” said Roland Miller, who lives two blocks away from Little’s residence in Sunland. “We spoke if we met on the street.”

Four sheriff’s office cars were parked at Little’s residence when Miller, a Sequim real estate agent, went home for lunch Thursday, Miller said.

She had run a block party for neighborhood residents for the past couple of years, he said.

Brothers Corey and Trevor Reeves said they moved into the house next to Little in January.

They both said they saw her Wednesday, but their family didn’t hear anything that night or the next morning that seemed suspicious.

She had brought them muffins on the day they moved in, they said.

Their mother, Tara Johnson, said Little, who worked at Sunland’s pool, was determined to get Johnson’s autistic daughter to say hello when Little saw her.

John Lavatai said he took care of Little’s yard for more than 10 years.

“It’s unbelievable,” Lavatai said. “She wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Brooks, the CASA coordinator, said a service will be scheduled.

Brooks said Little has family members in Jefferson County, Colorado and New Jersey.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Matthew Nash, a reporter with the Sequim Gazette, contributed to this report. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

Benjamin Bonner approaches defense attorney Harry Gasnick during Bonner’s first appearance in Clallam County Superior Court on Friday on charges of second-degree murder, animal cruelty and theft of a motor vehicle. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Benjamin Bonner approaches defense attorney Harry Gasnick during Bonner’s first appearance in Clallam County Superior Court on Friday on charges of second-degree murder, animal cruelty and theft of a motor vehicle. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

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