Suspect pleads not guilty in dismemberment case

COVINGTON - Franklin Elliot Benson, the man accused of killing his girlfriend and then dumping her dismembered remains in a rural area of Newton County late last year, pleaded not guilty to the charges against him at a hearing held Thursday morning in Newton County Superior Court.

Benson, 47, was indicted by a Newton County Grand Jury in early January on charges of murder, removal of body parts from the scene of death or dismemberment and concealing the death of another in connection with the slaying of 49-year-old Leslyan Williams.

At a previous hearing, Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon indicated that the death penalty was an option in the case. Zon said on Thursday, however, that the state has decided not to seek capital punishment against the defendant.

Benson, has been held at the Newton County Detention Center without bond since his arrest in November.

Thus far, authorities have recovered all of Williams' body with the exception of her head and torso. Authorities haven't indicated where they believe the suspect allegedly killed the victim, nor where he allegedly dismembered her body.

Williams' family members in Michigan told authorities that they last heard from her Oct. 28, two days before a resident found her dogs fighting over the victim's foot during the early morning hours.

Investigators were able to connect Benson to the area where parts of Williams' body were found after discovering that he held a quitclaim deed to the property.

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.