Family of suspect in Idaho murder-suicide makes statement

Aug 26 2011 - 8:50am

MOSCOW, Idaho -- The family of Ernesto Bustamante, the former University of Idaho assistant professor accused in the shooting death of graduate student Katy Benoit, issued a statement to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Thursday expressing their sympathies for Benoit's family and friends.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Katy's family and friends," according to a statement issued by Alfredo Bustamante, brother of Ernesto Bustamante, who arrived in Moscow Wednesday from Texas. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dearly loved Dr. Ernesto A. Bustamante. Dr. Bustamante was handsome, kind, brilliant, and as he used to say, 'One-of-a-Kind.' All those close to him would agree. He was nurturing, caring, and made all of us that were fortunate to be around him better people."

A service for Bustamante was held Wednesday in his hometown of Merida, Venezuela, the statement reads.

Bustamante is believed to have died in his University Inn-Best Western hotel room early Tuesday morning from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It followed a standoff with law enforcement attempting to arrest him for shooting Benoit, a UI psychology student, at her nearby rental home about 8:40 p.m. Monday.

According to an affidavit submitted by Moscow Police Sgt. Bruce Fager in Latah County 2nd District Court on Tuesday, Benoit had filed a complaint against Bustamante, a former assistant professor of psychology and communication studies with the UI in June after their romantic relationship deteriorated in March.

Roommates of Benoit said this led to his resignation from the UI effective Friday, but university officials have yet to acknowledge the claim.

Kent Nelson with the University of Idaho's general counsel spoke briefly with the Daily News on Thursday in an attempt to clarify the UI's policy regarding student and faculty relationships.

"If we are made aware of a relationship that appears to violate the university ethics policy, there would be an investigation to see if that was indeed the case," he said, adding disciplinary action can range as high as termination of employment. "The application of these policies are always fact-driven."

When asked how the university handles complaints from a student who had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a faculty member, Nelson declined to comment as the question was deemed "too hypothetical," stating again that actions in all complaints are "fact-driven."

A 2008-09 UI "Policies and Information of Interest to Students" handbook found at states "a consensual romantic or sexual relationship between any faculty member and his or her student, while not expressly forbidden, is generally deemed unwise.

"It is generally deemed equally unwise for a student to enter into a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with his or her professor."

Emma Gregory, one of Benoit's roommates, told police in an interview that Benoit had claimed Bustamante "had pointed a handgun at her on multiple occasions and put the gun in her mouth at one point" following the ending of their romantic relationship in March.

Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said there is no evidence of Benoit ever filing a complaint with law enforcement or a restraining order against Bustamante.

"We can't find a record of any protection order against Mr. Bustamante here in Latah County," he said. "We've queried the court record system. We can't find anything under his name except some traffic (violations)."

The police affidavit states Gregory told law enforcement Benoit filed a complaint with the UI regarding Bustamante's actions sometime in June.

Bustamante had been afflicted with multiple personality disorder, which "close friend" Rowdy Hope in an interview with Moscow detectives stated included one called a "psychopathic killer" and another "the beast," according to the affidavit.

He had been living with Lorissa Plotsky for the past six days leading up to the Monday night shooting, the affidavit stated. She confirmed Bustamante owned multiple handguns, including a Smith and Wesson .45-caliber semiautomatic and a 1911 .45-caliber handgun, according to the affidavit. Plotsky is listed in the UI's online directory as a graduate student, also studying psychology. The affidavit describes Plotsky as "a close friend of Bustamante and has had a relationship with him."

Bustamante's rental car was found in the University Inn-Best Western parking lot around 1:10 a.m. Tuesday by an Idaho State Police trooper about 4.5 hours after the shooting. The UI notified students of the Benoit shooting about 7 a.m.

Latah County Sheriff's Lt. Brannon Jordan said a sniper was at the standoff, but the only shots fired were 37 mm rounds of tear gas through the second-story window of Bustamante's hotel room.

"We had a sniper deployed just in case he started firing at officers outside the window," he said.

Latah County Sheriff Wayne Rausch said his entry team went into the hotel room around 7:30 a.m. to find Bustamante lifeless on the bed.

"Part of the MPD team was on a ladder outside the window, and it was my team that made entrance through the door," he said. "They did an excellent job all around.

"We used a camera to try to locate the subject before we made entrance. The room had been filled with lots of gas. He was motionless on the bed, but we didn't know at that point what was going on with him."

State Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, stated in an email to the Daily News on Thursday that Rausch told several attendees and himself at the Latah County Republican barbecue Wednesday that multiple weapons were also found inside the room.

"When law enforcement broke into the Best Western room there were 9 fully loaded weapons including an automatic rifle," Trail's email states.

Rausch said he is inclined to answer questions posed by state representatives, but said confirmation of the weapons would have to be received from the Moscow Police Department.

(c)2011 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

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