Larry Duane White and Robert Eugene Bennett used to play a little chess in the evenings at White's Avenues home.
According to charges filed Wednesday in 3rd Circuit Court, Bennett's last checkmate was the most horrible kind.Bennett, 51, was charged with second-degree murder in the grisly mutilation slaying of White, a free-lance writer.
Salt Lake County sheriff's officials had earlier sought a first-degree murder charge but filed the lesser charges after Medical Examiner Todd Grey determined White's limbs had been amputated after he was shot five times, and that the bullet holes in his torso caused his death.
And in Beaverton, Ore., law enforcement officials are preparing to interview Bennett again in the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Floy Jean Bennett, 37. She disappeared on Feb. 22, 1978. Coincidentally, on that same day 11 years later, White's severed legs were found in a Salt Lake County trash bin.
"We've never ever had any substantial information which linked Mr. Bennett to his wife's disappearance," said Beaverton police officer Mark Hyde. "With Mr. Bennett's arrest with this charge in Salt Lake City, it certainly sheds a bright light on our investigation up here."
Evidence found over the weekend in a Las Vegas boarding room Bennett lived in before his arrest April 6 led detectives to a former residence in South Salt Lake.
Detectives started digging outside the home at 664 E. Kings Lane (2980 South) in a patch of soft earth. On Monday evening they uncovered a man's armless torso, filled with five bullet wounds. The decapitated body was clothed only in white shorts, wrapped in a plastic bag and wedged between a pipe and septic tank about 30 inches underground. Officials unearthed a man's head on Tuesday morning, also wrapped in plastic.
Bennett had lived in the house from December to February.
For law enforcement officials, White's reported disappearance became a the trash bin outside a Salt Lake County supermarket on Feb. 22.
"When we started, all we had was a set of legs with different socks," said Chief Deputy Sheriff Charles J. Shepherd. "If we hadn't found the legs it would have been just a city case, classified as a missing person."
Sheriff N.D. "Pete" Hayward praised the detectives, saying it was good, old-fashioned police work that led to Wednesday's complaint.
"It was a tough case. They did a good job. They just wouldn't let loose of any little piece of evidence they got. It goes back again to the basics."
Hayward said some of White's identification was found in Bennett's possession, and assuming his identity could be a possible motive behind White's slaying.
Bennett, 51, was in the Salt Lake County Jail awaiting trial on a federal Social Security fraud indictment when he was charged with White's murder.