published Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Suspect copied Ted Bundy, say Chattanooga police

Ted Bundy confessed to killing 30 women in seven states over a four-year period in the 1970s.

Tyler Benson told Chattanooga police he wants to be like Bundy.

After being arrested Monday and accused of beating a woman in the head with a hammer, Benson, a 23-year-old who attended Lee University, told police he's been reading about the famous serial killer, who was executed in a Florida prison in 1989.

The woman, whom police say is a known prostitute, fought back when Benson tried to rob her, according to an affidavit filed by Chattanooga Police Department. The woman reportedly is just one out of several prostitutes whom Benson has picked up and attacked in a similar manner. He said "he enjoyed the power he felt while committing the ... offenses," according to the affidavit.

Benson remains in jail on a $180,000 bond on charges of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault and patronizing prostitution and police are looking for other women he may have assaulted.

"Prostitutes are routinely targeted for robberies, violent physical assaults, sexual assault and even rape," said Police Chief Bobby Dodd. "These women aren't out there repeatedly putting their health and life on line for sex, money or pimps. They are out there because they are sick and addicted. ... (Predators) realize that addicted people are less likely to seek assistance from law enforcement, and they also realize that any sexual assault reported by a prostitute will be viewed as suspect by officers."

On the outside, Benson seems like an unassuming clean-cut man. He recently attended Lee University, college officials confirm, although it's unclear if he graduated. He studied trumpet performance, according to his Facebook page, where he lists some of his interests as the Bible and Christian performance groups, bulletproof vests and AK-47 assault rifles. He has 701 Facebook friends.

Benson was seen routinely driving around the Highland Park area in a red Chevrolet sport utility vehicle, the affidavit said. The car now sits parked at his parents' residence, located on a quiet, gravel street near the intersection of Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and East Brainerd Road. A man who answered the door at the residence Monday afternoon declined to comment.

When police questioned Benson, he said he was picking up prostitutes and trying to trick them into giving him free sex, according to the affidavit. Early Monday morning he picked up the 39-year-old woman on South Willow Street, a known location for prostitutes to look for customers, then took her to East 23rd Street, the affidavit said.

He told police he wanted her to be afraid and do what he said, but the woman was "putting up a good fight," so he reached for a hammer and began to strike her in the head. At one point during the altercation, the two struggled over a knife, the affidavit states.

The woman sustained cuts to her arms, face and head and was treated at Erlanger hospital, police said. She was able to remember the car tag, which led police to Benson.

His next court date is set for June 11 before General Sessions Court Judge Christine Mahn Sell.

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