An El Paso County Sheriff's Department sergeant receives a promotion to lieutenant. Weeks later, she's killed in her own home. That was nearly 14 years ago. To this day, police have not arrested anyone for this decorated officer's murder. Crime Stoppers reporter Jeannette Hynes opens this Cold Case File, in hopes that someone has new information for investigators.
Cecilia Benefiel was only 32-years old when someone shot and killed her on November 16, 1990. Besides being a law enforcement officer, she was an accomplished harpist.
"She was real modest." Randina Chestelson had known Cecilia, or C.C., since 1978. They were sorority sisters in Wisconsin. "She was in criminal justice. And I was in engineering. So, we were worlds apart, but worlds close," says Chestelson. "I miss the fun times. Our birthdays are a day apart, so we always celebrated together."
C.C. became an El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy in 1982. She quickly moved up the ranks, and on November 1st, 1990, she was promoted to Lieutenant. "Good old C.C. She always tried so hard. Almost too hard," says Chestelson.
The last time anyone saw her alive was on November 16th at 1:30 a.m. She had just finished her watch commander's shift. On November 18th at 5:24 p.m., sheriff's deputies went to her house on Navajo Street in Colorado Springs. They were worried because she hadn't shown up for work.
They found C.C. dead inside her home. She was still in her uniform---her gun in her holster. She had been shot in the face.
Hundreds of officers in full uniform attended C.C’s funeral at First Methodist Church in Colorado Springs. "If it's somebody that you knew, or in the same line of work, you try to work even harder than you already do to work on your other cases," says Detective Derek Graham with the Colorado Springs Police Major Crimes Unit.
At the time, C.C. Benefiel was separated from her husband, then-Colorado State Trooper Robert Benefiel. He's always been under an “umbrella of suspicion” for C.C.'s murder, but police have never had enough evidence to arrest him. And he denies any involvement. Meantime, detectives continue to look at every possible angle. "When you have to start looking at the background of a law enforcement officer, there's a lot more background to look at," says Detective Graham.
At the Shrine of Remembrance, C.C. is memorialized by her maiden name, Cipriani. That's because her divorce was just days away from being final. And at the National Fallen Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C, she is memorialized twice---once as Cecelia Benefiel and the other as Cecelia Cipriani.
"You hope whoever did it, screws up again." Randina Chestelson says C.C. kept her private life and her professional life separate. "You didn't ask her any questions. When she was ready to tell you something, she'd tell ya."
Even though police haven't arrested anyone, those close to C.C. keep their suspicions focused. "I'd like to see it come to close. I'd like to see Bob Benefiel pay for it," says Chestelson. "The case grows older and older, and a lot of people don't realize, this is a case that's currently unsolved," says Detective Graham.
Investigators hope, after nearly 14 years, someone will remember something from that night or even from the days before and after the murder. That could help them link evidence to a killer.
You can tell police what you know, without having to tell them your name. Call Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP in Colorado Springs or 542-STOP in Pueblo. If your tip leads to an arrest, you could earn up to $1,000 cash.