Charge: Slain landlord told Everett man his lease was ending

In various stories, Frank Walton denied killing the Mukilteo man. Detectives believe he hid the body miles away.

EVERETT — An Everett man told police that the deadly beating of his landlord last month took place in his rented apartment. But he claimed the killing was done by two random intruders who burst in, then tried to force the victim into the tenant’s car, according to charges filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.

In reality, detectives believe Frank Walton killed the landlord, Howard Paul Benzel, 67, of Mukilteo, after being told his lease would not be renewed at an apartment in the 2100 block of Madison Street.

A couple in Skagit County found Benzel’s remains two days later, over 30 miles away, about a mile north of Lake McMurray.

A neighbor’s security camera captured a banging sound around 4:10 p.m. on March 28. About a half-hour later, Benzel’s wife called 911. He had been working at their mixed-use building in south Everett but was supposed to have come home hours before. She had gone to the complex and seen Benzel’s truck and cellphone, but no sign of him. She reported seeing Walton — who she knew didn’t get along well with Benzel — wiping up blood from the sidewalk and carrying a bag to a purplish Buick.

Police went into the apartment, fearing Benzel might be hurt and still be inside, but he was not there. Instead they noted a Tulalip Casino players card belonging to Walton, 40, who had been going by his first and middle names, Frank Edmund.

Officers tracked down the tenant around 8 p.m. at a friend’s apartment complex in Marysville. In a story that “changed frequently and often did not (make) sense,” he told police that day he’d been at his apartment, an Everett storage unit and the Marysville apartment. He owned a Ford SUV but hadn’t used it all that day, according to his report. Police asked about the purplish Buick. He reported that he had just bought the car and had taken it on “one run” earlier. He also acknowledged he’d argued with the landlord hours before at his apartment but denied any kind of physical altercation.

Outside the Marysville apartment, in a dumpster, police found rags that smelled like chemicals, as well as cleaning supplies, packaging materials, a banner and thick rubber floor mats — all of which had blood on them.

According to the charges, Walton later agreed to a recorded interview. He told police he’d lied about several things in his first interview and couldn’t explain why. Detectives asked him about evidence in the dumpster.

“I was in fear for my life,” he reportedly replied.

He claimed two men “who appeared to be cartel members” broke into his apartment, along with the victim. There, he reported, they punched the landlord in the head, flashed guns and told Walton to mind his own business.

“The defendant could not provide a reason why they would have taken the victim or entered the unit,” according to the charges.

In Walton’s account, the intruders told him to clean up everything, and that’s why he disposed of the evidence.

In explaining why there was blood in his car, he said the men slammed Benzel’s head into his Buick in an apparent attempt to get him into a wide-open door of the car. He clarified that he was assuming that happened, because he didn’t actually go outside to witness it. He maintained that he didn’t harm Benzel at all, and that he did not act in self-defense.

On March 30, the human remains, wrapped in plastic, were recovered in Skagit County. An autopsy found Benzel died of blunt-force trauma to much of his body and that he’d been struck many times with a weapon — a hammer or something similar.

In the meantime, a bag of bloody clothes was recovered from Walton’s home.

An employee of Conway Elementary School found security footage of a purplish Buick heading east on Highway 534 around 5:15 p.m. March 28, about six miles from the spot where the body was later recovered.

At his arraignment last week, Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy set Walton’s bail at $1 million. He remained behind bars, charged with second-degree murder and tampering with evidence. Walton has ties to Chicago and Milwaukee, where court records show he’d been convicted of misdemeanors but no felonies.

In an obituary, Benzel’s family remembered him as “a dedicated husband, grandfather and father of two, salesman (a good one), golfer, angler, questionable driver, handyman, jokester, and consummate host to family and friends.”

At the end of the day, his obituary said, he liked to drink a cocktail “and watch our beloved but beleaguered Mariners go down by four in the bottom of the third. … These moments were just as important as any of the many nagging chores that wouldn’t fix themselves. There was always tomorrow.”

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A wanted suspect was arrested after a standoff with law enforcement Tuesday night. (Bothell Police Department)
Kidnapping suspect arrested after standoff in Bothell

A large police presence contained the property in the 20500 block of 32nd Dr. SE on Tuesday night.

Community Transit's Lynnwood microtransit pilot project is set to launch this fall with a service area around the Alderwood mall. (Community Transit)
Lynnwood’s microtransit test begins this fall, others possible

Community Transit could launch other on-demand services in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens.

Doctor Thomas Robey sits in a courtyard at Providence Regional Medical Center on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘It’d be a miracle’: Providence tests new treatment for meth addiction

Monoclonal antibodies could lead to the first drug designed to fight meth addiction. Everett was chosen due to its high meth use.

Rev. Barbara Raspberry, dressed in her go-to officiating garments, sits in the indoor chapel at her home, the Purple Wedding Chapel, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Everett, Washington. The space used to be two bedrooms, but she and her husband Don took down a wall converted them into a room for wedding ceremonies the day after their youngest son moved out over 20 years ago. The room can seat about 20 for in-person ceremonies, plus it serves as a changing room for brides and is the setting for virtual weddings that Raspberry officiates between brides and their incarcerated fiancees at the Monroe Correctional Complex. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s oh-so-colorful Purple Wedding Chapel is in the red

Rev. Rasberry has hitched hundreds of couples over the years. After her husband died, she’s unsure if she can keep the place.

Everett
Man dies in motorcycle crash that snarled I-5 in Everett

Washington State Patrol: he tried to speed by another driver but lost control and hit the shoulder barrier.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
County OKs hotel-shelter purchases, won’t require drug treatment

Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring efforts failed to delay the vote and failed to require residents to get addiction treatment.

In a nearly empty maternity wing, Chief Administrative Officer Renée Jensen talks about how it has been almost nine years since east-county mothers could give birth at EvergreenHealth Monroe on Monday, April 1, 2019 in Monroe, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
EvergreenHealth Monroe seeks Community Advisors to guide services

Applications for the volunteer positions are due by Sept. 16.

Arlington
1 dead in fire at Arlington RV park

Authorities believe the fatal fire early Wednesday was an accident.

Patrick Diller, head of community partnerships for Pallet, discusses the Pallet Shelter Pilot Project last June in Everett. (Katie Hayes / Herald file) June 29, 2021
State laws prompt changes in Everett city rules for shelters

The city is considering revisions to issue permits more quickly for emergency shelters.

Most Read