Man charged with killing his wife and daughter informs police of the crime — (Southof Boston.com)

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Southof Boston.com

By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer

MArch 23, 2007

BROCKTON ­ Mark W. Benoit told authorities he killed his wife and then strangled his 9-year-old daughter because “he didn’t want to leave his daughter alone,” the prosecutor said at his arraignment this morning in Brockton District Court.

As crying friends and family members listened, Assistant District Attorney Courtney Cahill said that Benoit told authorities he was depressed and had been on the medication Prozac, but his prescription ran out and “he snapped.”

He told police he strangled both victims, Cahill said.

Benoit, who was wearing a hospital johnny, entered a plea of not guilty to two counts of murder and was ordered held without bail by Judge Paul Dawley.

Benoit, 42, is accused of killing his wife, Cynthia, and daughter, Sarah, whose bodies were found in their 112 Nilsson St. apartment after he called 911 at about 9:45 a.m. Thursday. He talked to the police department’s civilian call dispatcher for 17 minutes as officers rushed to the scene.

This morning, flowers, stuffed animals and candles left by friends and relatives lined the front of the house.

“Cindy, I wished I could have helped you and I’m sorry,” one note, sealed in plastic left next to a bouquet, read. “Sara, we will miss you and we will think of you always …We will make sure your big brother is OK and try to watch over him like he did for you.”

Mark Benoit was taken Thursday to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston for treatment of cuts, but was later released and held at the Brockton police station until his arraignment.

“He has sustained cuts and lost a substantial amount of blood,” Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said Thursday.

Cruz would not say on Thursday if the wounds appeared to be self-inflicted or occurred when authorities believe the mother and child were killed.

Sources said it appeared that Cynthia and Sarah Benoit had been killed much earlier, while Mark Benoit’s injuries appeared to be fresh.

The girl was absent from the Arnone School on Wednesday; it could not be immediately learned if Cynthia Benoit had a job.

Police found Mrs. Benoit lying on the floor of the first-floor apartment and Sarah in a bedroom.

Cruz declined to say if a weapon was recovered or what statements the suspect made to police.

“This is still an active investigation,” he said.

Cruz said this morning he is awaiting results of autopsies before releasing the causes of death.

State police crime specialists were at the apartment Thursday, gathering evidence, after investigators obtained a search warrant for the three-story, wood-frame house off Main Street, south of downtown. What type of evidence was found was not immediately released.

Police discovered the bodies after Benoit opened the apartment door under their orders, Cruz said. Police initially dislodged a door panel to try to get into the house before Benoit let them in, he said.

When police stepped inside, they saw blood on the floor and Cynthia Benoit dead, he said. Her age was not immediately available.

Officers then searched the apartment and found the child, Cruz said.

Mike Bransfield, a neighbor, said he was leaving for work Thursday morning when he saw police bring out the suspect, who had red marks on his neck.

“I heard the police yelling ‘Get down, get down!’ I thought it was a drug raid,” Bransfield said.

Police Chief William Conlon said officers wanted to get inside as quickly as possible.

“Time is precious,” he said.

The family moved to Brockton in December after being evicted from an apartment in Norwell.

An older son remained in Norwell, living with family friends, to wrap up his senior year in high school.

Sources said the family had been homeless at one point.

John Yazwinski, executive director of the Brockton-based MainSpring Coalition for the Homeless, declined to say if his organization had provided the family with housing assistance or placement.

“This is a terrible tragedy and our prayers are with the family at this time,” he said.

The couple was awaiting an October trial in a medical malpractice case dating back to February 1995, when Cynthia Benoit gave birth to a premature baby who died.

They filed a claim against Brockton Hospital and a doctor and nurse who treated her and sent her home the night before she delivered.

The case was thrown out by a medical tribunal in 1999, but a judge overturned the ruling in 2002, putting it back in the courts.

Benoit enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1986 and was released from active duty in 1991. He then entered the reserves, leaving in 1995. He was given the Armed Services Expeditionary Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

One of Benoit’s neighbors in Brockton, Allen Harraden, said Benoit told him he was getting medical help from the Veterans Administration Medical Center for a back problem. Benoit also told him he suffered seizures, Harraden said.

Maureen Boyle can be reached at mboyle@enterprisenews.com.