0

Benson murder trial: Sister testifies couple argued about money

COVINGTON - Cassandra Benson testified against her brother, Franklin, Thursday in his murder trial by telling the jury that he and Leslyan Williams had money problems at the time of her death in 2007.

Cassandra Benson said she had met Williams earlier that year at a party and then spent time with Williams in the days leading up to her disappearance. She told the jury that it was during a trip to the hair salon that Williams confided to her that Benson had not paid her back on loans Williams she had made to him that year.

Cassandra Benson told jurors that Williams would only agree to Franklin Benson moving in with her if he had good credit.

That, according to Cassandra Benson, was not the case.

"She said he lied to her and that his credit was bad and he didn't have any money," she said.

Cassandra Benson also discussed renovations being done to Williams' basement that her brother was doing. She said Williams talked about having money from refinancing her mortgage to do the work and giving it all to Franklin Benson to do.

Cassandra Benson told jurors that Williams explained to her that work on the basement had slowed down and that Franklin Benson was then paying for the work out of his pocket.

"She gave it all to Franklin, and it was all gone," Cassandra Benson said.

Also, after Williams was reported missing, Cassandra Benson testified that her brother instructed her to tell investigators that she had never seen him and Williams argue about money.

Money problems has been one of the arguments prosecutors have emphasized to jurors as a motive in Williams' death. Franklin Benson is accused of murdering Williams, dismembering her body and scattering body parts on a secluded property off of Ga. Highway 212 in south Newton County.

Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon and investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Newton County Sheriff's Office have evidence connecting Franklin Benson to Williams, but no murder weapon or a clear explanation of how she died.

A human foot, later determined to be the remains of Williams, was first discovered on Oct. 30, 2007, on the Newton County property connected to Benson. A search eventually turned up severed hands, legs, arms and the other foot, but Williams' head and torso were not recovered.

Defense attorneys attempted to discount Cassandra Benson's testimony in their cross examination. Attorney Leah Madden questioned how Williams could confide in Cassandra Benson when she knew her for just a short time.

"Let me understand that you expect the jury to believe that you met her one time at a barbecue in the summer and then when you met the second time, she was talking about all of this stuff about your brother?" Madden asked.

Zon asked Cassandra Benson why she decided to testify against her brother. She answered that a part of her wanted to while another part did not want to testify.

"Partly, I don't. I love my brother, and I know that if the same thing happened to me or his other sisters, he would be torn up about it," she said. "But partly I do because I had time to get to know Leslyan, and I felt that something wasn't right."

The prosecution said it expected to close its case today with Benson's defense attorneys possibly introducing their witnesses by this afternoon.