Randle, WA – Two brothers have been charged for the brutal rape and murder of a 16-year-old boy who was found buried in a shallow grave, police said.
Benjamin “Ben” Eastman, 16, was last seen by his family on June 23, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
The teen primarily lived in Randle with his father, Benjamin Eastman, but also regularly spent time at his mother’s home and his stepbrother’s residence, so his father initially wasn’t too concerned when he didn’t see the teen for a couple of days, KOMO reported.
Friends and family tried to contact the teen without success and reported him to law enforcement as “a runaway or possible missing person” at 7:45 a.m. on June 27, the sheriff’s office said.
Ben’s family told investigators that the last person who spoke with Ben was his longtime friend, 16-year-old Benito “Benny” Marquez, according to KOMO.
During an interview on June 28, Marquez confirmed that he and Ben planned to meet up, but claimed that Ben never showed and that he hadn’t seen him for “several days,” the sheriff’s office said.
According to charging documents, cellphone records showed that Marquez and his brother, 21-year-old Jonathon Adamson, invited Ben to go on a camping trip with them on June 24, KCPQ reported.
The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office began canvasing the remote area, when they received a tip of a “possible shallow grave” on a piece of remote property belonging to one of the brothers’ relatives, the agency said.
Ben’s father said that his friends had been the ones who spotted the site and notified investigators, KOMO reported.
Deputies responded to the wooded area and located the suspected grave.
“Initially deputies were advised the gravesite was for a dog that had recently died, but felt the information was suspicious in light of recent report of the runaway/missing juvenile,” the sheriff’s office said.
Eventually, investigators located a second gravesite on the same parcel of land, and discovered Ben’s beaten, lifeless body inside, People reported.
According to charging documents, Adamson later told detectives that, after he and his brother lured Ben to the remote area on the premise of a camping trip, they shoved the teen to the ground and kicked him in excess of 100 times, the New York Post reported.
Adamson allegedly confessed that he and his brother raped Ben with a stick while he was still alive, then beat him in the head with a rock to ensure he had died.
They tossed his body into the initial grave site and buried him, then burned his clothing and the items they had used to conceal his body.
Concerned that the grave would be noticed, the brothers dug the body back up and hid it in the second grave site, where the teen’s body was ultimately unearthed by investigators.
The Medical Examiner confirmed that Ben died from blunt force trauma, KOMO reported. There was also evidence of extensive injuries to his torso and head.
On Monday, Marquez and Adamson were each charged with first-degree rape, first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and unlawful disposal of remains, the New York Post reported.
Marquez has been charged as an adult.
During their court hearing on Monday, Ben’s father leaned in on the courtroom railing to make sure his son’s accused murderers had no choice but to see him, KOMO reported.
"I wanted them to look at me,” Benjamin Eastman said. “I wanted to look them in the eye.”
Despite their tragic loss, Ben’s family said they wanted the teen to be remembered for his happy-go-lucky demeanor and his positive outlook on life.
"It's easy to get caught up in the negative aspect of this, but I remember my son and his smile," Eastman told KOMO. "There is evil people out there. I don't know what makes them tick. I don't want to know. I'm loved, and my son was loved and that's all I'm about.”
The brothers’ bonds were each set at $10 million.
Their court arraignments have been scheduled for July 12.