Dad was murdered

Mentally ill son of 'busy volunteer' charged after father found dead in home

Wed, January 23, 2008


Pierre Benge was approaching his 60s with a hunger to give back to his city.

There seemed to be no end to Benge's want for community involvement, accepting director posts within the Catholic community and at his alma mater, the University of Ottawa.

The 59-year-old Ottawa father, who came here from the Congo over two decades ago, likely had many more years of volunteering ahead, but his life was suddenly snuffed out this week, allegedly at the hands of his mentally ill son.

Police have been piecing together the sequence of events that led officers to discovering Benge in his family's Somero Pvt. home Monday afternoon with a shirt wrapped around his neck and his head pinched in a folding chair.

The injuries were so severe that he was declared dead at the scene, although paramedics transported him to hospital where a doctor officially pronounced the death.

An autopsy, which was scheduled for yesterday in Toronto, is expected to reveal the exact cause of death.

Meanwhile, homicide detectives charged Elliot Benge, 22, with second-degree murder. He is scheduled to appear in court today.

It's Ottawa's first homicide of 2008.

Police have been called to the family's Greenboro home for several incidents related to Elliot Benge's schizophrenia.

While Elliot Benge has had dealings with police, he has no criminal record.

Members of the Benge family declined to comment at a relative's east-end home yesterday. A woman who answered the door said they were too distraught to discuss the incident.

Pierre Benge, a highly educated man who had bachelor of science and masters degrees, joined the board of directors of the U of O alumni association in May 2007.

Guy Larocque, director of alumni relations, said Benge was an "affable man" who was enthusiastic about his nomination to the board.

"The whole office is in shock," Larocque said. "It's very close to home for everybody. No one expected that."

Pierre Benge worked at the Unemployment Insurance Commission in the early 1970s before working in the urban and land-use planning fields.

In 2000, he accepted a volunteer position on the board of the Catholic Family Service of Ottawa and stayed in that position until 2002. Administrators appreciated having someone on the board with a different cultural background, according to executive director Franca DiDiomete.

"He was curious and wanted to know more," DiDiomete said. "He was very pleasant and very gentle."

Georges Bourgoignie, who served as president on the board while Benge was a director, said Benge "did an excellent job" in his volunteer position.

Bourgoignie called Benge a "busy volunteer" in Ottawa.

The Benge family have been active members of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica on Sussex Dr.

"The Benge family members are registered, dedicated, devoted parishioners of Notre Dame cathedral and they actively participate in this community's life," Msgr. Patrick Powers said in a statement. "The pastoral team of the Cathedral is now dedicating all of our energies to helping this faithful family during this trying time. Please pray for them and the repose of Mr. Benge's soul."

On Somero Pvt. yesterday, Hannei El-Khoury's eyes glistened with tears as she stared at the police cruiser parked in front of the Benge house.

El-Khoury remembered Christmas Eve when she sent her son over to the Benge house to borrow a wine opener, which was sent over along with wishes for a happy holiday.

"It's too bad that these kinds of things happen to good people," El-Khoury said.