Benjamin Joseph Kennedy, 29, of Brainerd, slashed his own throat and stabbed himself in the chest with a knife after he created a barricade in his motel room and resisted attempts at communication by Las Vegas police detectives, authorities said today.
Today Cass County Sheriff Randy Fisher said fingerprints were used to positively identify Kennedy's body. Fisher said the next step is to get DNA samples from Kennedy and compare them with evidence collected at the scene of the triple homicide in Pillager.
Fisher said he has not ruled out anything, including whether Kennedy had accomplices in the May 29 murders. Kennedy was charged with three counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Jennifer Toal, 20, Brainerd; Daniel Harting, 36, Brainerd; and Ryan Englert, 19, Pillager.
Fisher said investigators learned over the weekend Kennedy may have gone to Las Vegas. Once the motel was pinpointed, Las Vegas detectives, armed with a photo of the accused killer, were quickly able to establish which room Kennedy was using. The motor-court style motel, described as a seedy place in a gritty neighborhood with a history of drug arrests and prostitution, has about 30 rooms and is without a central hallway as room doors open to the outside.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detectives arrived at the Desert Moon Hotel about 11 p.m. Sunday and tried to talk to Kennedy and persuade him to come out of the hotel room.
Kennedy barricaded the room after detectives located him. When communication attempts failed a crisis negotiator was called in along with a SWAT team.
"The crisis negotiator also failed to establish a dialogue with (Kennedy)," said Las Vegas police Lt. Tom Monahan, commander of the homicide division.
At 2 a.m. the SWAT officers forced entry by kicking in the door and breaking the motel room's windows. Officers found Kennedy dead at the scene.
Monday afternoon Monahan said the autopsy was completed and officials were waiting for the report on the official cause of death. Kennedy was found on the bed with a knife in his chest.
Monahan said it is rare for a person to commit suicide with a knife but they have seen it. And homicide officers were called into the investigation to determine if anyone else may have been involved.
"It's clear that it was a suicide," Monahan said.
Monahan said Kennedy had been staying at the motel since June 9, three days after Kennedy was charged in the Pillager killings. Kennedy was not staying with anyone at the motel. No gun was found in the room. Kennedy did not leave a note. Monahan said papers were found in the room and Cass County investigators will go through the evidence to see if it can shed light on the Pillager murder case.
Monahan credited the Cass County Sheriff's Department's investigators and the Minnesota Criminal Apprehension Team with tracking the fugitive to the Las Vegas motel, a few miles east of the downtown casino district.
"I don't think there was too much luck involved," Monahan said.
A Cass County investigator and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent were sent to Las Vegas. This morning Fisher said he had not spoken with investigators yet. Fisher said he expects their trip will be helpful.
Fisher said investigators have been relatively successful identifying and locating individuals they wanted to interview. The criminal complaint, filed when Kennedy was charged with the killings and a warrant issued for his arrest, will remain sealed at least until investigators learn more about what happened in Las Vegas.
Kennedy is not suspected in any crimes in Las Vegas or Nevada. Detectives do not know if Kennedy drove to the area and as of Monday afternoon had not identified a car associated with him.
Monahan, who was at the scene, said Kennedy appeared to be living in a spartan setting and was traveling light. No drugs or significant amounts of money were found in the room.
Las Vegas law enforcement are looking at phone records, which may come from a pay phone in the motel's parking lot.
Monahan said the credit for finding Kennedy belongs to the Cass County Sheriff's Department.
"I'm looking forward to meeting and shaking the hands of the detectives when they get down here."
(This story contains information from The Associated Press.)
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