KTLA reports that Christopher Benton pleaded not guilty Monday to making criminal threats and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Benton’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7, and he remains in jail on $195,000 bail.
Through the Public Relations Office, President Andrew K. Benton released a statement to the Pepperdine community on August 28:
“To Members of the Pepperdine Community:
For about 14 years Debby and I have dealt with issues emerging from the presence of drugs in the life of our son, Chris, and those with whom he has chosen to associate. For the most part, this issue has been kept private as we have tried a number of treatment methods. We have not given up, but we have not been successful.
There have been glimpses of improvement and reasons for hope, followed by steep falls and what we can only describe as chaos within our family. Last Thursday, after our decision to engage law enforcement, our private, family situation became very public. In the midst of the joy of the opening of a new school year, members of our campus community witnessed the arrest of our son.
Chris will not be returning to campus for some time, probably a long time. That status will not change until the University Threat Assessment Team concludes that it is appropriate for him to do so. All parties involved — the Court, the District Attorney, University leaders tasked with assuring campus safety, as well and his mother and I — agree with this decision. It is not an easy thing to do, but it is appropriate.
Again, you have my personal apology for the impact this has had on our wonderful Pepperdine community.
Andrew K. Benton”
President Andrew K. Benton’s son, Christopher Benton, 27, is scheduled to appear in court today, the same day Seaver classes begin. Christopher was arrested on the second floor of the Thornton Administration Center on Thursday morning.
L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies apprehended Christopher on suspicion of making threats to his family and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun and ammunition. Shortly after, Public Relations emailed the Pepperdine community to confirm the news.
The event happened during New Student Orientation, and as parents and freshmen gathered at the “Goodbye Ceremony,” Dean of Student Affairs Mark Davis read aloud the email and led a prayer for the Benton family.
Jerry Derloshon, Public Affairs senior director, said he didn’t know why Christopher was in the TAC at the time of his arrest. Derloshon said that on Wednesday, Christopher went to his family’s home on campus, the Brock House, and made “serious” threats, prompting them to call the sheriff’s department. Christopher then allegedly left the Benton residence, and deputies looked for him overnight.
The next morning he returned to campus, where DPS called the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. According to Steve Whitmore, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Benton ran out of a side door and down a campus hill, where deputies eventually found the weapon.
Ammunition was reportedly discovered in Christopher’s car that was found on campus. Derloshon did not know where Christopher’s car was located on campus. He could not discuss “details pertinent” to the weapon but was concerned about stories reporting the gun being loaded.
President Benton provided a statement in an email to the Graphic on Thursday afternoon:
“We love our son and, perhaps, we love him even more as a consequence of the many challenges he has faced in his life. He has made a number of harmful decisions, especially those emerging from experience with drugs and poor choices in friends. We don’t know exactly how we arrived at this point, but we are a family and we will work through it. We hope this present situation is the beginning of a new path, and we pray fervently to that end.”
Christopher was wanted for questioning in the spring by the L.A. County Sheriff’s department regarding the death of 25-year-old Katie Wilkins. Surveillance footage showed Benton and Wilkins, a Malibu resident, together at a McDonald’s restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway hours before her body was found in her parents’ garage on West Moon Shadows Drive. Wilkins’ final autopsy report determined her cause of death to be heroin overdose but did not rule on the classification or context of death.
Shortly after deputies attempted to question Benton, he reportedly entered a drug rehabilitation facility.
Members of the Wilkins family have waged an online campaign for Benton to talk with police. “Truth for Katie,” a Facebook page dedicated to Wilkins, displays news of Christopher’s arrest with impassioned comments, many saying the arrest being a time to get answers they’ve been waiting for.