Slain Boy's Father Sat Front Row in Court to Face Accused Murderers: 'I Wanted Them to Look at Me'
"I wanted them to look at me," Benjamin Eastman told KOMO of Jonathon Adamson and Benny Marquez, who allegedly killed and raped Eastman's son Ben
Benjamin “B.J.” Eastman Jr. headed to court on Monday with a purpose: to look straight at the people accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his 16-year-old son after luring the boy into the woods.
Eastman sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery in Chehalis, Washington, alongside a friend and his mother, local TV station KOMO reports. He “leaned in” on the railing dividing the public from the defendants so that he could not be avoided.
“I wanted them to look at me,” Eastman told KOMO of suspected killers Jonathon Adamson and Benito “Benny” Marquez. “I wanted to look them in the eye.”
Adamson, 21, and Marquez, his 16-year-old brother, are both charged with first-degree rape and murder as well as tampering with physical evidence and unlawful disposal of remains in the beating death of Benjamin “Ben” Eastman III.
Of the accusations, B.J., Ben’s dad, said: “When I heard they were charging them with rape and that process, that really blew me hard.”
Still, he said, “It’s easy to get caught up in the negative aspect of this, but I remember my son and his smile.”
Ben was last seen alive on June 23 before his body was found in a “shallow grave” on June 28 on a remote parcel of land owned by Marquez’s relative, according to authorities. Ben had been reported missing a day earlier, on June 27.
According to KOMO, B.J. said he wasn’t initially concerned that he hadn’t seen his son for a few days because the boy traveled between his home, in Randle, and his mother’s home and another relative’s residence.
According to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE, Marquez, who is being prosecuted as an adult, was a longtime friend of Ben’s. He and his brother allegedly lured Ben into the woods for a camping trip last week, but then knocked him to the ground and assaulted him for approximately 20 to 45 minutes.
The charging documents allege that Adamson told police he and Marquez sexually assaulted Ben with a stick while Ben was still alive.
Before burying Ben, the brothers beat him in the head with a rock to ensure he was dead, authorities suspect.
A motive in the attack is unclear.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Adamson and Marquez remain in custody in lieu of $10 million bond each, jail records show. They have not pleaded to their charges. Information about whether they retained attorneys who could comment on their behalf was not immediately available.
They are reportedly set to return to court on July 12.
Speaking to KOMO, Ben’s dad described him as a joyful, happy teenager and said the two enjoyed camping, fishing and dirt biking together. He said Ben was his best friend.
“You’d be in a bad mood and he’d just walk in — you’d just be mad as mad as you could be and he’d just crack a smile and make you giggle just over anything, always,” Ben’s brother Derek Dunaway told KOMO.
According to local station KIRO, hundreds gathered on Tuesday for a vigil at the White Pass Jr. Sr. High School in Randle, where Ben was a rising junior. Principal Chris Schumaker said it was fitting the service began in the gym because Ben loved sports so much and was always in the gym.
“When you lose a brother or sister, everybody in a family closes ranks and that’s what we did our education family closed its ranks,” Schumaker reportedly said, underscoring Ben’s loyalty.
“He really liked to stand up for his friends,” he told the Daily Chronicle. “A lot of the time, his friends would get in trouble because of his shenanigans and somehow he was able to kind of sidestep getting caught. So then towards the end he would kind of say, ‘Mr. Schumaker, it was kind of me, I deserve the detention.’ And I would say, ‘No, you know they did the crime, they get the time.’ He tried really hard to plea-deal consequences his friends earned. But in the end, I would just say ‘Ben, go back to class it’s okay. They’ll get through it, you’ll get through it, there’s always tomorrow.’ He was a good kid.”
Ben and his family were fans of the Miami Dolphins, KIRO reports, and during the vigil relatives released aqua and orange balloons representing the team colors, which those in attendance also wore, according to the Chronicle.
Said one attendee, Jessica Gleason, after the vigil: “Today gave me a chance to look and see and notice how many people I think are better people because of him.”