TSA worker charged in murder of co-worker

September 23, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In this Intelligence Report: The murder case is in Mississippi, but the federal security official and accused killer was recently stationed at O'Hare.

Ruben Benitez had moved up quickly in the ranks of the Transportation Security Administration at O'Hare Airport. Benitez started as a security screener, the officers who work the airport checkpoints. He was eventually made a TSA manager in Chicago, then promoted to the No. 2 TSA spot in Mississippi, where police believe an affair with an underling ended badly.

Benitez is in police custody, charged with murder, and being held on $3 million bail. He is accused of attacking 43-year-old Stacey Wright with a knife and stabbing her numerous times. Wright, separated from her state trooper husband, was found dead Sunday in the apartment where she had been living.

"The security officer here at the facility and one of my officers came to the victim's apartment this morning to do a welfare concern, and found that the victim was deceased," said Chief Wayne Payne of the D'Iberville Police Department.

Benitez was picked up for questioning early this week.

Until 2008, Benitez had worked for the TSA at O'Hare Airport. His wife is said to still lived in Chicago. When Benitez moved to Mississippi he worked at the Jackson airport, where authorities believe he met the victim. She recently moved to south Mississippi, where Benitez went last weekend, according to police. There was evidence of a fight inside her apartment.

Detectives were led to Benitez after interviewing witnesses and co-workers.

"They did work together, and it is my understanding that he was her boss," said Payne. "It appears that they got into some kind of altercation which led to the murder of Stacey Wright."

The accused murderer had been with TSA nearly since the federal agency was formed after 9/11, and so had the victim. Both of them followed similar career paths, moving up the homeland Security ladder to management positions.

Now, she is dead, and he is in jail.

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