GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten today announced that Gerald Bennett, 63, from Detroit, Michigan, died in the hospital on November 13 due to medical complications while awaiting trial. Bennett was charged with (1) conspiracy to commit murder for hire resulting in death, (2) kidnapping resulting in death, (3) kidnapping of a minor victim, and (4) solicitation to commit a crime of violence. If convicted of count one or two, Bennett could have been sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is dismissing the pending case now that the defendant is deceased.
“The allegations in this case were heinous and I deeply regret we will never present the evidence against Mr. Bennett in open court,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “At best, our efforts can secure only a measure of justice. We can’t bring Mujey back. But the truth-telling role of a conviction matters. I am grateful for the investigators who worked for years to secure justice and my heart remains with her family as they mourn the loss of one they dearly loved.”
"I commend the dedicated men and women of the investigative and prosecutorial teams for their continued pursuance of justice for the victims and their families in this case," stated Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. "While the defendant's case will not be brought before the court due to his untimely passing, the FBI, alongside our local and state law enforcement partners remain committed in using our collective resources to hold those individuals responsible who conspire or commit violent acts in our communities."
In 2017, a high-school student named Mujey Dumbuya accused Grand Rapids resident Quinn James of sexually assaulting her when she was 15 years old. Upon learning of the criminal complaint, James hired Bennett to help him kidnap and murder Dumbuya, who was then 16 years old. James and Bennett communicated for several weeks before abducting Dumbuya from a bus stop on January 24, 2018. Her body was found days later in a wooded area in Kalamazoo. James and Bennett were both charged in state court for her murder. James was convicted after trial and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Bennett, however, convinced the state court he was not competent to stand trial. In March 2022, Bennett’s state case was dismissed.
Federal and state investigators remained convinced that Bennett was competent and presented the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In June 2022, Bennett was arrested on a federal criminal complaint that alleged Bennett worked with James to kidnap the 16-year-old girl who had accused James of sexually assaulting her. A federal grand jury reviewed evidence against Bennett in August of 2022 and returned an indictment formalizing the charge of kidnapping a minor.
Bennett was then transported to a special Federal Bureau of Prisons facility for a competency evaluation by a forensic psychologist. The evaluation report concluded that Bennett was not only competent but malingering, that is, faking his incompetency. While Bennett was in custody awaiting his competency hearing, he allegedly solicited another murder for hire in an effort to silence a key witness. Bennett also allegedly admitted to inmates in the jail that he was faking his incompetency. On April 18 of this year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ray Kent reviewed the evaluation and ruled that Bennett was competent to stand trial.
Afterwards, a grand jury considered additional evidence and added charges accusing Bennett of conspiracy to commit murder for hire resulting in death and kidnapping resulting in death. The grand jury also included a fourth charge for solicitation to commit a crime of violence for Bennett’s efforts to hire someone to murder a witness in his case. Jury selection for trial was scheduled to begin on February 26, 2024.
On November 7, Bennett was admitted to the hospital for cancer treatment. The next day his health declined substantially and he was placed on life support. On November 13, Bennett died. Bennett was the sole defendant in the federal case and with his death, prosecution is no longer possible.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Mekaru and Austin Hakes. The investigation of Bennett was an inter-agency effort led by the Grand Rapids Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, and the Michigan State Police, with the assistance and cooperation of the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office.
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MEDIA NOTE: Previous press releases concerning this case are included below.
Further Charges Added Against Detroit Man Held in Murder-For-Hire Plan
Among Additional Charges, Defendant Allegedly Plotted to Kill a Witness Against Him
Alleged Kidnapper Competent to Stand Trial
Evidence Shows Defendant Faking Incompetency