Parricide: The Stories of Shawn Bentler & Mark Gibbs
The Bentler Family Murders
At 3:38 am on October 14th, 2006, 911 operators in Southern Iowa received a panicked call from the home of Mike and Sandra Bentler of Bonaparte. The caller, a teenage girl, said her mother told her to call 911 because “my brother’s going to do something. I don’t know what… my mom’s yelling at him, saying ‘Shawn, don’t’” (Iowa V. Bentler). The operator could hear a woman yelling in the background “Please don’t! Please Shawn don’t!” (Iowa V. Bentler). The operator then heard popping noises followed by the caller screaming “Shawn, no!” (Iowa V. Bentler). Then the line went dead. Another call came in but there was no caller on that line. Return calls went to a teenage girl’s voicemail, that of Shelby Bentler. Return calls to the home’s landline went unanswered. Police rushed to the Bentler home and came upon one of the most brutal murders in Iowa history.
At 3:55 am police arrived at the Bentler home, a beautiful and large rustic home atop a hill. Inside they found the body of Michael Bentler in the doorway to the master bedroom. His wife Sandra was found deceased at the top of the stairs. The couple’s daughter Shayne was found in her bedroom closet with parts of the telephone receiver around her and imprint of the phone on her face (Iowa V. Bentler). It appeared as that she had been shot while on the phone with 911. Shelby Bentler, one of the couple’s other daughters, was also found inside her closet with her cell phone near her body. The last of the Bentler girls, Sheena, was found dead in her bed. All five members of the Bentler family had been shot with a .22 caliber rifle.
Michael Bentler was born May 16th, 1953, in Fort Madison Iowa. He started dating his wife Sandra in the 1980’s. Sandra Lee Mendez was born December 5th, 1958, in Fort Madison. Michael and Sandra welcomed a son, Shawn Michael Bentler, on February 5th, 1984. They married in July of 1984. The couple then welcomed three daughters, Sheena in 1988, Shelby in 1990, and Shayne in 1992. Michael and Sandra Bentler owned multiple lumber yards and businesses and did well financially. They bought a beautiful log cabin style home on 445 acres of land in Bonaparte, Iowa.
Shawn made good grades in school and excelled in computers. He played sports and enjoyed camping and hunting with his father. He was especially close to his mother. In fact, he and his mother once went to Orlando and Mexico together on vacations. They talked almost daily, and even as an adult Sandra continued to do her son’s laundry. Shawn graduated from high school in 2002 and decided to move with his friend to Quincy, Illinois. Quincy was about an hour and twenty minutes from Bonaparte, but Sandra still did her son’s laundry.
The summer after high school, Shawn became a father to his first daughter. He and the girl’s mother broke up, but the family welcomed Shawn’s baby with open arms. Shawn enrolled in community college in Quincy, be eventually dropped out. His parents often helped him pay his bills including rent and child support for his daughter. Shawn moved back to Iowa in 2004 to work at his father’s lumber yard.
Around 2004, Shawn started dating a woman named Lexie Leslie and she became pregnant in early 2005. Shawn was having more problems as he had lost his driver’s license and racked up $1,000 in court fines and traffic violations (Jordan, 2007). In the summer of 2005, Shawn led police on a high-speed chase in Iowa as he drove his motorcycle 75 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. He would later plead guilty in that case and was fined $500 and received a deferred sentence. If he got caught driving again, he would have to serve two years in prison.
In September of 2005, Shawn Bentler became a father to a second daughter. He had already broken up with Lexie Leslie and moved back to Qunicy to live with friends. In early 2006, Shawn was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in Illinois. He started work at several jobs includes Lowe’s and selling cars, but always seemed to get fired or quit after a short period of time. In fact, he told one boss his father had died, but when he called Sandra Bentler to express condolences, he learned Shawn had lied. His parents continued to pay his rent, bills, and help support his two children.
Sheena Lee Bentler was seventeen years old at the time of her death and a senior in high school. She was on track to graduate early and as valedictorian of her class. She was a member of the National Honor Society, art club, student council, choir, Society of Academic Achievement, and trap shooting club. She was a talented athlete, involved in cross country, basketball, and softball. She loved being outdoors boating and hunting.
Shelby Marie Bentler was fifteen years old at the time of her death and a sophomore in high school. She was active in the art club, basketball, track, Society of Academic achievement, and softball. Like the rest of her family, she enjoyed being outdoors boating and hunting.
Shayne Lauree Bentler was fourteen years old at the time of her death and a freshman in high school. She was active in basketball, track, softball, and art club. She also loved being outdoors boating and hunting.
In the fall of 2006, Lexie Leslie had begun to pressure Shawn to help take care of his daughter. She said that Shawn told her, about a week before the murders, that “his parents’ deaths would end his financial troubles because he stood to inherit a rich estate” (Jordan, 2007). He also asked her if she would still allow him to be around their daughter if he killed someone.
When police processed the scene at the Bentler’s home, they found Shawn’s cell phone. This was odd because Shawn was living an hour and half away in Quincy, Illinois. Law enforcement contacted the Illinois police in Quincy and asked them to put Shawn Bentler under surveillance. Shawn was soon arrested by police in Quincy for driving his motorcycle without a valid license and on an outstanding warrant for drug possession. He was taken to jail in Quincy.
Given the 911 calls pointing to Shawn and his phone being at the scene of the crime, he was detectives' prime suspect. They went to Illinois to question him. He seemed genuinely upset when they told him his parents and sisters were dead. He claimed to last see his mother the evening of October 13th at approximately 10:30 pm when she dropped off his laundry. He said he accidently left his cell phone in her vehicle, and she probably brought it in the house when she returned home. He said he was home all night after that.
One roommate stated he saw Shawn when he arrived home in the early morning hours of October 14th, probably around 1 am. Another roommate verified Shawn was home when he woke up around 6 am. Was it possible for Shawn to have driven from Quincy to Bonaparte to kill his family and return within five hours? Police suspected Shawn left around 1:30 am and arrived at the Bentler home around 3-3:30 am. He killed his family and, realizing 911 had been called, quickly left the property, forgetting his cell phone. He would have arrived back in Quincy about 5:30 am.
One of Shawn’s socks had a few drops of blood on it which were positively identified as belonging to Sandra Bentler. Shawn’s roommate, who arrived home early that morning, said his gas tank was empty the next day although he knew it had at minimum a quarter of a tank the night before. The keys were kept in the car and Shawn often took it without asking. The tire tracks from his car, which had one brand new tire, matched tracks left near the Bentler home and on a backroad where the .22 caliber rifle was found. Shawn Bentler was arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
At trial, the 911 tape was the most damning evidence of Shawn’s guilt as his sister and mother could both be heard begging Shawn for their lives. Shawn’s defense said that Sandra wore glasses, and the glasses were not found on her after her murder. He said Sandra probably could not clearly see who was killing her. The prosecution rebutted with the notion that a mother who could not see her attacker would not think to accuse her son who lives an hour and a half away.
Phone records from Shawn’s phone indicated he called Lexie Leslie at approximately 10:30 pm, when he claimed he was sitting in his mom’s vehicle. He made calls to other friends later that night, around midnight, proving he had possession of his cell phone and it was not in his mother’s vehicle. A friend of one of his sisters also testified she was on the phone with the girl around 10:30 pm and heard Sandra Bentler tell her it was time for bed, meaning Sandra was not in Quincy at that time.
Shawn Bentler was found guilty on all five counts of murder. He was given five life sentences, four of which will run concurrently and one consecutive. The judge ordered the punishment for killing Sandra Bentler to be consecutive to the others as the 911 tape proves she begged her son for her life, but he shot her anyway. The motive if believed to be greed, as Shawn was to inherit over two million dollars from his parents’ estate. If his sisters were alive, they would get a quarter of the estate each. Instead, the estate is in a trust for Shawn’s two daughters.
The Murders of Richie & Betty Gibbs
Mark Gibbs called his uncle on January 6th, 1992, asking if he could come over because “something had happened to his mom and dad” (Rosenbery, 1992). The seventeen-year-old’s uncle called the police who responded to the home of Richard “Richie” and Elizabeth “Betty” Gibbs in rural Union County, Illinois. The home, in a rural area near Reynoldsville and Jonesboro, held a disturbing scene.
Richard Gibbs was born in 1955 and married Elizabeth Dangbar on June 7th, 1974. Elizabeth, known as Betty, was born in 1956. Richie was a boiler operator for Uniman Co. in Elco. Betty was a homemaker. The couple had one son, Mark Gibbs, who was born September 6th, 1974. Mark was a sophomore in high school. He was a small kid, standing 5’3” and weighing 100 lbs. He looked much younger than seventeen. Neighbors said Mark was a quiet but polite kid and he had no history of getting trouble.
When police arrived on January 6th, 1992, around 7:30 pm they found the deceased body of Richie Gibbs, age 36, lying on the floor near the couch with a gunshot wound to the head. His wife Betty, age 35, was lying on the couch with two gunshot wounds to her head. They had both been shot with a .22 caliber pistol. They appeared to have been watching television when they were killed, with no signs of a struggle. Betty, amazingly, was still alive and was transferred to a hospital in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She was put on life support.
The day after the murders, police arrested Mark Gibbs and charged him with first-degree murder in the death of his father and attempted murder in the shooting of his mother. The .22 caliber rifle was recovered nearby the home and identified as one belonging to Mark Gibbs, a gift from a family member the year before. When Betty Gibbs died days later, on January 10th, the charges were upgraded to two counts of first-degree murder. Because Mark was a minor, he was not eligible for the death penalty.
Three years went by as the lawyers on each side prepared to take this case to trial. Mark Gibbs, now twenty years old, claimed he was the victim of child abuse and that the murders were self-defense. However, “no credible evidence supported Gibbs’ abuse claims" per Wes Wilkins, the prosecutor in this case (Rosenbery, 1995). In fact, Gibbs told authorities that he “was tired of being grounded by his parents, and that he was anticipating bad grades” (Rosenbery, 1995). In a surprise plea, Mark Gibbs changed his plea to guilty in 1995.
Mark Gibbs was given a mandatory life sentence without the possibly of parole in the Illinois Department of Corrections. He is currently serving his sentence at Pontiac Correctional Center. He has never offered any motive or expressed any remorse.
Murderpedia (n.d.) Shawn Michael Bentler. Shawn Bentler | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
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Associated Press (2007) Judge visits scene of 5 slayings. 11 May 2007, 6 - Globe-Gazette at Newspapers.com
Associated Press (2006) If guilty, son won’t get inheritance. 28 Oct 2006, 12 - The Gazette at Newspapers.com
Iowa Department of Corrections (2022) Shawn Michael Bentler. Offender Information | Iowa Department of Corrections
Jordan, E. (2007) Bentler, mom close, but he killed all 5. 19 Jun 2007, Page 13 - The Des Moines Register at Newspapers.com
FindAGrave (n.d.) Shayne Lauree Bentler; Michael J. Bentler; Sandra Lee Mendez Bentler; Sheena Lee Bentler; Shelby Marie Bentler. Shayné Lauree Bentler (1992-2006) - Find a Grave Memorial
Illinois Department of Corrections (2022) Mark Gibbs. Individuals in Custody (illinois.gov)
Rosenbery, P. (1995) Surprise admission: Gibbs pleads guilty. 28 Feb 1995, Page 1 - Southern Illinoisan at Newspapers.com
Rosenbery, P. (1992) Son charged in shootings. 08 Jan 1992, Page 1 - Southern Illinoisan at Newspapers.com
FinaAGrave (n.d.) Richard L “Richie” Gibbs; Elizabeth S. Gibbs; Elizabeth S “Betty” Gibbs (1956-1992) - Find a Grave Memorial
Obituaries (1992) Richard ‘Richie’ Gibbs; Elizabeth S. Gibbs. 11 Jan 1992, Page 20 - Southern Illinoisan at Newspapers.com