Man charged with abducting Michigan teen who was strangled dies while awaiting trial

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A man awaiting trial in the kidnapping of a 16-year-old western Michigan girl who was later killed has died from medical complications.

Gerald Bennett, 63, of Detroit, was admitted Nov. 7 to a hospital for cancer treatment, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said Tuesday. Bennett was placed on life support after his health declined. He died Monday.

Bennett was found competent last April to stand trial in the abduction of Mujey Dumbuya.

In 2017, Dumbuya had accused Quinn James — a maintenance worker at her school — of sexually assaulting her when she was 15. She had been scheduled to testify at his trial in April 2018.

But Dumbaya was abducted from a bus stop in January 2018 and her partially clothed body was later found in woods in Kalamazoo, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of her Grand Rapids home. She had been strangled.

Totten said James hired Bennett to help him kidnap and kill Dumbuya, and the two men were charged in state court with murder. James was convicted and sentenced in April 2019 to life in prison. But Bennett was ruled incompetent to stand trial and charges against him were dismissed in March 2022.

The case then was referred to the FBI and federal prosecutors, and a federal grand jury indicted Bennett in August 2022. A forensic psychologist concluded that Bennett had faked incompetency and a judge ruled he was competent to stand trial. Jury selection was scheduled to begin in February 2024.

Federal authorities charged Bennett with conspiracy to commit murder for hire resulting in death; kidnapping resulting in death; kidnapping of a minor victim; and solicitation to commit a crime of violence. That case is now dismissed, Totten said.

“The allegations in this case were heinous and I deeply regret we will never present the evidence against Mr. Bennett in open court,” he said. “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.”