By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Friends and family gathered Sunday afternoon to remember Amanda Benton, 29, of Melvindale, whose body was found Friday in an abandoned house in southwest Detroit following her Sept. 26 disappearance.
Mourners met at Vernor and Ferris in Detroit, where Benton’s empty purse was found by a homeless man, and walked several blocks to Pitt and Norman, where the car she was driving, a 1995 green Dodge Neon, was found late Sept. 26.
Benton, who has four sons, was five-and-a-half months pregnant with a daughter.
Family members identified her body, and are awaiting the Detroit Medical Examiner’s report.
A 23-year-old man and a 16-year-old man have been arrested and charged in the case.
Benton’s grandmother, Diane Author, said police told her a witness saw two men on bicycles carjack Benton, put her in the car’s trunk, then tortured and killed her.
“They got a witness, and they got her in a safe house right now,” Author said. “They said that these two guys on bicycles got Amanda out and they took her car. They threw her in the trunk.
“They got her in some abandoned garage or something and they beat her and they choked her and they thought they killed her, and then they ended up burning her body alive.”
Andrew Diabo, 31, of Melvindale, Benton’s boyfriend and father of her unborn child, said she texted him at 3 a.m. Sept. 26 that she would be home shortly. At 10 a.m. when he woke up, she was missing and her cell phone unresponsive.
Diabo told Melvindale police that Benton, who was to have entered rehab Sept. 26, was addicted to heroin.
Her father, Tom Benton, 54, of Gladwin, said opioid pain medication prescribed for back pain triggered her addiction.
The night she went missing, Amanda Benton, whose driver’s license was suspended, took Diabo’s 1995 green Dodge Neon to southwest Detroit, where family members suspect she went to buy heroin “one last time” before entering rehab.
Diabo said Amanda Benton had a big heart, and was always helping other people.
“She would always go out of her way to bring you up,” Diabo said. “If you were down, she would do anything for anybody.”
She lost custody of her four young sons about a year ago. The two older boys, TJ, 11, and Billy, 9, live with her father in Gladwin.
“Every time we got a chance, we would go up and visit them,” Diabo said. “It was nothing but smiles as soon as they would see mom. They loved their mom more than anything.”
Diabo said her death is a tragedy.
“Since Monday morning we have been walking the streets looking for her,” Diabo said. “No sleep, no food. I wasn’t ‘the boyfriend’ – she was like my wife – and that was my daughter, that were tragically murdered.”
Amanda Benton’s mother, Florine Harper, 49, of Allen Park, said her daughter was a beautiful baby.
“She looked like a baby doll,” Harper said. “Amanda is a girl I do not want anybody thinking of as a drug addict.
“My daughter had a problem, and people in this world (use) tough love and shut them out and close them out. I don’t believe (in that). I believe you don’t give them money, but I believe you let them know they are loved every day. If they are hungry, you feed them.”
Harper said the witness who came forward to police is a hero, and the reason her daughter’s remains were found and suspects taken into custody.
She said her daughter tried for months to get admitted to a rehab facility, but didn’t have insurance to pay for a facility, or money to cover the cost.
“If you don’t have $30,000 or $40,000, you are pushed behind, or you are stuck somewhere where they don’t do any help,” Harper said.
Harper said people need to stop being afraid of the drug dealers and help the police.
“That’s why these streets are the way they are, because (the dealers) scare people,” Harper said. “People need to speak up, and stop running scared.”
Tom Benton said people tend to focus on the negative aspects of his daughter’s life.
“We all have demons, but they won’t talk about the good things that she was doing,” he said. “Tuesday I pulled off of I-75 onto Springwells, and a homeless man there, I passed him a flyer of my daughter, and he said, ‘I know her. She comes here every day and she feeds me. She gives me food.’”
The homeless man said Amanda Benton would buy bologna and bread, and make sandwiches to pass out to the homeless people.
“I didn’t know that about my daughter,” Tom Benton said. “She had demons, but she had the best heart of anybody I have ever known in my life.”
He said he is glad that doctors are beginning to exercise restraint with opioid prescription pain medication, which leads people to heroin.
“I hate drugs,” he said. “It’s killing people. It destroys lives. Not just the lives of those that are using, but the lives of all their loved ones, the ones that care about them.”
Amanda Benton also leaves her sister, Diane Benton, 31, and her brothers James Benton, 25, and Aaron Benton, 18.
To donate to the funeral fund, go to gofundme.com/Funerals-Memorials-Tributes?term=Amanda%20Benton.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)