Family wants justice for murdered teen
Police and family say many people know who killed Diego Benitez
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Shot inside a van full of people he knew and then dumped in the street, 17 year old Diego Benítez didn’t live long enough to say who shot him. Diego’s mother believes there are plenty of people who can.
To most, Diego Benítez was a typical fun loving teenager. Fun, happy and excited about life, sccording to his mother Erica Hernandez.
“Diego was very sociable. He could make friends at any school he went to.” Erica said. “I mean, he was a super sweet kid, had a good smile.”
That is the Diego the young man allowed most people to see. On the inside, his mother says, things were much more complicated.
“He struggled with his mental health and depression, but on the outside people always saw a sweet funny, caring young man,” she said.
In family pictures, Diego is shown often smiling and laughing with his two brothers and younger sister. Sadly, one of those brothers unexpectedly died. It’s something that hit the family hard, but hit Diego especially hard.
“It was super quick to cancer. It really affected Diego,” Hernandez explained. “It affected both of his brothers, but they both handle it differently and and Diego just could never wrap his head around the idea of losing his brother.”
It’s not a new story. In fact, it’s a story told many times by many families. The loss of a family member leading another down a sad, often dangerous road to cope.
“He struggled a lot with self medicating and depression and was making horrible choices, making other people mad, you know, not just making enemies, not making the right choices,” his mom said.
It was October 30th, 2021 when those bad choices would catch up to the 17 year old who, after the death of his brother, said would live life as if he was dying tomorrow. Wichita Homicide Detective Ken Davis says in the early evening, Diego was hanging out with friends at a Wichita home. He told friends someone was coming to pick him up and shortly after, he got into a champagne colored Chrysler Town & Country van and drove away.
“He appears to willingly get into this van but the van drives just a very short distance and gunshots are heard,” Detective Davis explained. “It’s a very generic van. If you start looking for this van, there are a lot of them. There’s nothing unique or distinctive about the van that would help us identify it if we were to see it on the street or driving around.”
So, the van is a clue, but not a good one. The best clue though, is that no one questions that Diego knew the people inside that van. At least three people that were there when he was shot and killed.
“I’m absolutely convinced that there are people that know exactly what happened. I’m convinced that some of the people we’ve already talked to have information,” Davis said.
“They knew him, and again, I just feel like there are witnesses out there that know exactly who did it. Maybe they don’t know why they did it. They didn’t know it was going to happen, but they know who did it and they’re just not coming in and telling,” Diego’s mother added.
That has left detectives to turn to the public to help solve the senseless murder, and Diego’s family to cope with another devastating loss.
“I just don’t think unless you’re a parent that’s gone through a loss of a child that has siblings, you don’t understand how hard it is. You have to go through the whole losing your child process and then you have to watch the siblings that have stayed behind struggle,” Hernandez said. “I’m sure they wonder, also like Diego did, ‘is it gonna happen to me’ or you know ‘what’s gonna happen tomorrow?’ ‘Can happen to my mom?’ I mean it’s just like living hell on earth watching them struggle.”
Detectives say, it doesn’t matter what information a person has to offer in this case. Any information is information they want. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
If you have information about the murder of Diego Benitez, click here to contact authorities.
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