GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man awaiting trial on federal charges stemming from the 2018 abduction and murder of an East Kentwood High School student has died in a Lansing hospital.
Gerald Bennett had been awaiting trial early next year for his alleged role in the death of 16-year-old Mujey Dumbuya. He entered Sparrow Hospital on Nov. 2 and died early Monday, defense attorney Matthew Borgula said.
“He went into the hospital and was put on life support and he passed away,” Borgula said.
Bennett, 63, was awaiting trial on several charges, including kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder for hire resulting in death.
He was accused of assisting Quinn James, a former maintenance worker at Kentwood Public Schools, in the abduction and death of Dumbuya, whose body was found in Kalamazoo four days after she went missing. She had been strangled.
Dumbuya had accused James of rape. A Kent County jury in 2019 found James guilty of first-degree murder. James, 48, is at a state prison near Coldwater, serving the mandatory sentence of life without possibility of parole.
The Kent County Prosecutor’s Office also filed charges against Bennett, accusing him of assisting James in the crime. But a judge found Bennett incompetent to stand trial and he was eventually released from custody.
The federal government stepped in. In July 2022, Bennett was arrested on a federal criminal complaint for kidnapping a minor. An indictment followed. Earlier this year, a magistrate judge in Grand Rapids found Bennett competent to stand trial. The trial was scheduled for February 2024.
Bennett’s legal team last week notified the federal court that Bennett was in the hospital “and is unlikely to recover.’’
He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and doctors placed him on a ventilator prior to his death Monday.
“The allegations in this case were heinous and I deeply regret we will never present the evidence against Mr. Bennett in open court,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a Tuesday statement. “At best, our efforts can secure only a measure of justice. We can’t bring Mujey back. But the truth-telling role of a conviction matters. I am grateful for the investigators who worked for years to secure justice and my heart remains with her family as they mourn the loss of one they dearly loved.”