Nov. 20, 2018
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office has arrested Justin Drinkard, age 33, of 4936 High Point Road, Panama City, on an open count of murder. The victim has been identified as Jerry Benefield, Jr, age 20.
The BCSO received two 911 calls at about 4 AM Sunday morning, November 25, 2018. The calls were in reference to a fight between two men at 1606 Alaska Circle, Lynn Haven.
Deputies responded and discovered Jerry Benefield, Jr, unresponsive in the residence on Alaska Circle. EMS responded and took Benefield to a local hospital. Justin Drinkard was in the home. Benefield’s girlfriend, a juvenile, had run to a neighbor’s home after the fight.. Also available for questioning was a roommate of Benefield’s that lived in an apartment above Benefield’s home.
After speaking with the witnesses, BCSO criminal investigators believe that Justin Drinkard went to the victim’s residence on Alaska Circle to purchase narcotics sometime before 3 AM Sunday morning. While there, Drinkard and the victim, Jerry Benefield, Jr, used narcotics. According to the victim’s girlfriend, Justin Drinkard began to make sexual advances to both the victim and the victim’s girlfriend. When that happened, the victim and girlfriend went to an apartment upstairs to enlist the help of their roommate to force Drinkard to leave the residence.
After confronting Drinkard in a bedroom in the home, Benefield and the roommate turned to lead him to the front door to get him to leave. When both men had their backs turned, Drinkard did not follow them but instead followed the girlfriend into the bathroom. According to the girlfriend, Drinkard began to grope her and she screamed for help. Benefield ran to defend her and engaged in a physical fight with Drinkard. The roommate fled and called 911 on his phone.
When it appeared Drinkard was getting the better of the victim, Benefield, the girlfriend hit Drinkard twice over the head with a frying pan hard enough to damage the pan, but Drinkard did not stop. When Benefield passed out, Drinkard grabbed a baseball bat Benefield had been holding, and hit him over the head. It is uncertain exactly how many times Drinkard hit Benefield. The girlfriend ran for help from a neighbor who called 911.
Jerry Benefield was transported from a local hospital to a medical facility in Fort Walton and passed away there around noon on November 26, 2018. His body has been turned over to the Medical Examiner. Autopsy is expected tomorrow.
The investigation continues.
Prepared by R. Corley
Information by Capt. J. Daffin
Approved by Sheriff T. Ford