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Idaho professor kills student in murder-suicide, police say

August 24, 2011 |  6:56 pm

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Police are learning more about an apparent murder-suicide near the University of Idaho that left a 22-year-old graduate student and a 31-year-old former professor dead this week.

A new court affidavit says a friend of victim Katy Benoit told detectives that the professor, Ernesto A. Bustamante, had said he had multiple personalities that included a "psychopathic killer" and "the beast."

Benoit's family members say Bustamante, with whom Benoit apparently once had a relationship, had subjected her to a pattern of "threats and intimidation" that prompted her to go to university authorities for help.

Police say they believe Bustamante shot Benoit on Monday night outside her home in Moscow, Idaho, then shot himself to death in a motel room, where he was found Tuesday morning.

"Katy had shared with us details about her issues with Ernesto Bustamante. She was deeply alarmed by Bustamante's behavior and rhetoric," Benoit's family said in a statement.

The family said the university had received "dozens of complaints" from other students about Bustamante, a former assistant professor of psychology who resigned earlier this month, but that Benoit had been the only one willing to sign her name to a complaint.

Lt. David Lehmitz, Moscow's acting police chief, said in an interview that police are investigating the nature of Benoit's relationship with Bustamante, which purportedly ended in March.

He said police have found no record of any restraining order filed in the case.

"It is extremely tragic, and those type of things just do not occur in our community," he said.

The police affidavit said Benoit's roommates reported that Bustamante had confronted Benoit several times with a handgun, including one occasion in which he placed the gun in her mouth.

Benoit, a graduate psychology student who had earned her undergraduate degree in 2010, had been baking cookies with friends on Monday evening when she stepped out on the porch to smoke a cigarette. She was hit by gunfire from a .45-caliber handgun.

A neighbor saw a man leaving the scene in a black Chrysler, which was subsequently identified as a rental car and tracked to a motel near the university.

After confirming that Bustamante had checked into a room there, police tried to phone him and forced their way in when they were not successful. They found him dead on the bed.

University officials have not discussed the case, citing privacy regulations connected with Bustamante's employment. University President M. Duane Nellis said in a statement that Bustamante had tendered his resignation Friday.

"In any situation that involves a known threat to a member of our community -- student, faculty or staff -- we take that matter very seriously," he said. "I want to assure you that if any questions were raised, they were investigated and dealt [with] within the bounds of law and university policy."

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-- Kim Murphy in Seattle

Photo: A police sniper aims at the window of the motel room Ernesto Bustamante rented in Moscow, Idaho, in which he was subsequently found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Credit: Brandon Macz / Moscow-Pullman Daily News 

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