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Seattle Social Worker Murdered By Client As City Wants To Replace Cops With Social Workers

Seattle, WA – A Seattle social worker was stabbed to death in her office by a public housing resident who thought he was going to be evicted.

The incident occurred just before 11 a.m. on Nov. 23 at the Lewiston-Scargo Apartments near 1st Avenue and Blanchard Street in Belltown, the Seattle Times reported.

Security video from outside the office of 42-year-old Kristin Benson showed a man entered the building carrying grocery bags and then pulled out a large knife, and entered the social worker’s office.

A co-worker heard Benson screaming and ran to help, the Seattle Times reported.

Charging documents said she recognized her colleague’s attacker – 58-year-old Hans Dewey Van-Belkum – who was making “punching/stabbing motions” at Benson who was face down on the floor.

The coworker turned and ran for her office and Van-Belkum chased her with his knife in hand, the Seattle Times reported.

The footage from hallway surveillance cameras showed the armed man fell as he chased the other woman, then attempted to break down her locked office door.

“The murder of Ms. Benson was horrifying, an unarmed victim, trapped in her own office, unable to escape or fight back against the defendant’s rage and blade,” King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Raz wrote in charging papers. “Equally terrifying was the defendant’s willingness to violently attack others who came to Ms. Benson’s assistance.”

Charging documents said that when he couldn’t get through the other woman’s door, Van-Belkum returned to Benson’s office and attacked her again, the Seattle Times reported.

“The defendant then reentered the victim’s office where he, at a minimum, plunged his knife into the victim’s back,” a Seattle police detective wrote in the charging affidavit.

Police said Van-Belkum punched another staff member repeatedly and took him to the ground before a resident pulled him off, the Seattle Times reported.

Then he left the building before police arrived.

Benson was found dead in her office, face down with the knife sticking out of her back, the Seattle Times reported.

The autopsy revealed she had been stabbed 12 times.

The medical examiner said that three of the eight wounds were to her back and three of them would have been fatal on their own, the Seattle Times reported.

Charging documents said officers spotted the suspect five hours later, still wearing the same blood-stained clothing from the surveillance video, in the 2300-block of Elliott Avenue.

He was arrested and charged with murder and second-degree assault , the Seattle Times reported.

King County Jail records showed Van-Belkum remained in custody in lieu of $1 million bail.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 9, according to the Seattle Times.

Investigators found surveillance footage from a nearby military surplus store that showed Van-Belkum purchased the murder weapon on Nov. 7, according to the charging documents.

Prosecutors said he purchased the knife specifically to kill Benson, the Seattle Times reported.

Charging documents said police had found a note in Van-Belkum’s apartment that indicated he believed Benson was involved in a plan to have him evicted from the building where he had lived for eight years.

The court documents didn’t say whether there was actually an eviction in the works, the Seattle Times reported.

Prosecutors said Van-Belkum had mental health problems and may have been upset because he thought he was going to lose his Social Security benefits, KOMO reported.

The Lewiston-Scargo apartment project provides housing to people who were formerly homeless.

It’s owned by a non-profit agency called Plymouth Housing where Benson had been employed as a full-time case manager for almost eight years, KOMO reported.

Benson’s friend, Cat Stulik, said she and the social worker had discussed the possibility of her being targeted for harm because of her job but that Benson had dismissed her concerns.

“She always felt safe,” Jessie Perry, another friend, told KOMO.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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