For Decades, Woman Claimed Intruder Fatally Stabbed Boyfriend — But Anonymous Letter Led to Her Arrest

Jade Benning blamed the 1996 attack on a man she alleged broke into the couple's Santa Ana, Calif., apartment, but a 2020 letter sent to police said otherwise

Jade Benning
Jade Benning. Photo: Santa Ana Police Department

An anonymous letter sent to police in 2020 cracked open a cold case and led to a woman's arrest this week in connection with her boyfriend's 1996 killing.

The fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Christopher Hervey had perplexed police for 26 years.

His girlfriend at the time, Jade Benning, who was also then 22, said an unknown man had forced his way into the couple's apartment in Santa Ana, Calif., as they slept at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 4, 1996, reports The Orange County Register.

She alleged the pair struggled with the intruder, who fled after stabbing Hervey.

Responding officers found Hervey suffering from numerous stab wounds to his upper torso. He later died from his injuries.

Neighbors told police they'd heard loud arguing coming from inside the apartment for about 15 minutes before officers were called, Santa Ana police said in a news release. But no weapon was found, and no suspect was ever identified.

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As leads dried up and the case went cold, Benning moved in 2001 to Las Vegas, and later to Austin, Texas, police say.

Then, in January 2020, "an anonymous letter was received at the Santa Ana Police Department implicating Benning as involved in the murder of Christopher Harvey," police said. Police have not revealed the content of the letter.

A cold-case detective re-examined the case, with additional forensic testing. Without revealing what they tested, police said this week that "ultimately, sufficient evidence was collected to obtain a criminal complaint," and a $1 million warrant for Benning's arrest was issued.

With Santa Ana police on hand, Benning was picked up Tuesday near her Austin residence by agents from the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.

She has not entered a plea, and no attorney for her was immediately identified as she awaits extradition to Orange County, Calif., "to answer to the murder allegations," police said.

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