published Saturday, January 7th, 2012, updated Jan. 7th, 2012 at 7:50 p.m.

Update: Hutcheson shooting suspect goes before judge on murder counts

Sheriff of Walker County, Steve Wilson, left, and Fort Oglethorpe Chief David Eubanks address the media on Saturday morning at a press conference held at the Fort Oglethorpe police department.
Sheriff of Walker County, Steve Wilson, left, and Fort Oglethorpe Chief David Eubanks address the media on Saturday morning at a press conference held at the Fort Oglethorpe police department.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A Walker County magistrate this afteroon formally charged James Benson with two counts of felony murder in the shooting deaths Friday night of his estranged wife and her mother at Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.

Benson, 59, wore chains on his arms and legs and a "turtle suit," a green, reinforced garment used to prevent suicide attempts, when he appeared before Magistrate Melissa Hise at 3 p.m. today.

He appeared distraught but said nothing as the charges were read.

Police have identified Benson as the man who opened fire in the second-floor waiting rooom of Hutcheson's intensive care unit about 6 p.m. Friday and pumped bullets into his wife and her mother.

Benson and his wife, 56-year-old Mary Sue Benson, had been fighting for several weeks, said Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief David Eubanks.

Mary Benson and her 77-year-old mother, Charlotte Johnson, were at the hospital visiting Johnson's other daughter when the shooting took place, Eubanks said.

A hospital employee called 911 but James Benson was able to leave the hospital and drive away in his car, which was parked out front, authorities said.

James Benson drove to the nearby Fort Oglethorpe police station and turned himself in, authorities said.

He will be held without bond in the Walker County Jail. His next court appearance has not yet been scheduled.

Continue reading previous coverage here.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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