CRIME

Family, friends search for clues in Phoenix man’s murder

Answers lacking seven months after Benjamin Anderson’s body found

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Benjamin Anderson is described by friends and family as a generous and helpful person.

It’s still unclear if those characteristics are what led him to someone who killed him.

Anderson, a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, S.C. and a former conceierge manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Paradise Valley, was murdered sometime on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1.

While there seems to be no doubt Anderson was killed by someone else, the way in which he was killed — and by whom — seem almost as mysterious today as seven months ago.

Anderson, 41, a 1999 graduate of Centennial High School, was known by friends and family as a loving, giving person. A few of those friends were among those trying to locate him on the evening he went missing.

“Ben had a big heart,” said Lisa Dedeppo, a cousin of Anderson’s. “He always wanted to be kind to people. That’s why there are a billion scenarios going through our heads about how and who he got mixed up with, and how something horrible might have been done to him.”

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson’s death is an open and active homicide investigation. The medical examiner’s report cannot be released because of what MCSO says is sensitive case information that could jeopardize the investigation.

No arrests have been made and no names of people of interest have been announced.Dunlap, 

What is known is Anderson had plans to meet close friend Daniel Stahoviak for breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve.

Anderson called Stahoviak to cancel, not surprisingly, after much driving and visiting friends the day before.

At about 6:30 p.m., Stahoviak said, he and others started to notice no one had heard from Anderson. Stahoviak said he went to Anderson’s condo, near Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue, but Anderson wasn’t there, and neither was his white 2020 Lexus UX.

Stahoviak said credit cards and cash were left on the counter, with laundry strewn about the condo, which he found odd.

An hour later, friends and family reported Anderson missing to the Phoenix Police Department and had called Lexus, the maker of Anderson’s car, to see if GPS could be used to track the car.

Stahoviak said to his frustration, Lexus personnel told him they knew the car’s location, but wouldn’t share that with friends. However, the location was given to Phoenix police, who went to a Super 8 motel off of Interstate 17 near Dunlap Avenue, but couldn’t locate it.

That led Stahoviak and friends to drive around through hotels in that same Black Canyon Highway area, hoping to catch a glimpse of Anderson’s vehicle.

By chance, at about 12:20 a.m. on Jan. 1, they spotted it — while going through the fourth floor of the parking garage at the Sheraton Phoenix Crescent, near Dunlap Avenue and I-17. Backed into a parking spot, there were three people around the car, but no Anderson.

Stahoviak said people spotted in Anderson’s vehicle included a man of average height with dark curly hair, possibly a light-skinned Latino or white. The woman was about 5-feet, 11-inches tall, blonde, wearing a pink beanie.

Stahoviak said he and Anderson’s two other friends followed the three in the car out of the garage, down the frontage road and into a parking lot, but when the vehicle headed the wrong way on a frontage road, it was time to stop following and call 911. Police couldn’t find the car.

Extremely concerned by that point, Stahoviak said, the group went back to Anderson’s condo to see if there were any more clues about Anderson’s circumstances.

A call to Lexus revealed the vehicle was then offline and not trackable.

Unable to rest, the trio decided to drive around some more. At about 4 a.m., they found the Lexus in the parking lot of UEI College — next to the Sheraton Phoenix Crescent — burned and destroyed.

Stahoviak said Anderson’s duffel bag and some lights he purchased were still in the vehicle.

At about 1:40 p.m. Dec. 31, MCSO said it received a call for service to a body found in the desert north of Phoenix. The body of Anderson was found near I-17 and Table Mesa Road — about 30 miles from the Sheraton and UEI College.

MCSO didn’t publicly identify the body as Anderson’s until Monday, Jan. 3. The Sheriff’s Office said the manner of death is homicide, but declined to provide any other details.

Benjamin Anderson was found murdered in early January, and his car was found burned at a North Phoenix college the day he disappeared.
Benjamin Anderson was found murdered in early January, and his car was found burned at a North Phoenix college the day he disappeared.

Stahoviak told the Daily Independnet neither he nor his friends that spotted Anderson’s car recognized the three people they said were with it at the Sheraton.

At 6-feet, 1-inch tall and about 250 pounds, it would have taken an single assailant of considerable strength or skill to overpower Anderson alone, Stahoviak said, who added none of Anderson’s friends knew of any enemies or people who were known to have issues with him or would harm him.

Dedeppo, who teaches school and has a college-age daughter, said she was close with Anderson growing up. She said he was close with Butkus, his German shorthaired pointer dog.

A celebration of his life, held Feb. 7, didn’t bring much closure for Anderson’s friends and family.

Anderson attended Northern Arizona University and was the personal assistant to a couple in Las Vegas for several years. Returning to the Valley, he had an active social life, but wasn’t much for big crowds, and wasn’t a heavy drinker.

The Daily Independent reached out to Maricopa County District 5 Supervisor Steve Gallardo, as Anderson’s parents live in that district, but didn’t receive any response.

Dedeppo said his generosity occasionally led him to associate with people who weren’t really his peer group, but that doesn’t mean his fatal circumstances were necessarily brought on by that characteristic.

“He was kind to everyone and always wanted to help,” Dedeppo said. “That’s just who he was raised to be. But he seemed to always know what he was doing.”

The Sheriff’s Office, at one point, asked anyone with information to contact them at 602-876-TIPS or 602-876-1011.

crime, homicide, Centennial High School, Ritz-Carlton, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, MCSO, Dunlap, Super 8, Sheraton Phoenix Crescent, Lexus, New River, Carefree, desert, Butkus

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