Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DA: "Actionable" info in '93 West Coast Video murders

Posted: Friday, November 29, 2013

On a long ago November morning, Janice Benson woke up to find her 20-year-old son Bryan wasn’t in his bed. That was strange, she thought.
“He never, ever, would stay out without letting me know where he was,” Benson said.
In another nearby Warminster home that morning, Bonnie Youngers found the untouched dinner she had left in the microwave the night before for her 20-year-old son, Seann Campbell. His bed hadn’t been slept in either.
Unlike Benson, Youngers was more annoyed than alarmed. Seann had done this before and she made a mental note to remind him — again — to call if he wasn’t coming home.
Both women got dressed and left for work.
Once there, Benson started calling Bryan’s friends looking for him. When she saw the police car pull up outside her office building, she knew something bad had happened.
Youngers said she had a bad feeling that morning, too, but in her case, she was worried she would be laid off. As she was led into a conference room, Youngers told her boss she understood. It was OK.
But it wasn’t OK. She saw her husband, their pastor and a police officer waiting for her in the room.
“I just knew it,” she said.
Bryan Benson (L) and Seann Campbell
November marked the 20th anniversary of what police and prosecutors describe as one of the most notorious unsolved cases in Bucks County history — the West Coast Video murders, a double homicide of two 20-year-old clerks in Warminster.
The case has long puzzled investigators. The victims had been repeatedly stabbed. There was no clear motive and virtually no obvious evidence left behind.
Though fresh clues have dried up in recent years, the case is once again “actively” under investigation, according to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office. Chief of Prosecution Matt Weintraub declined to reveal specifics, but confirmed that police and the DA are pursuing “actionable information.”
“Where there is a lead, there is a chance to solve it,” Weintraub added.
The Courier Times was unsuccessful in reaching Warminster Police Detective John Bonargo, now assigned to the case, for comment. The DA’s investigators are assisting Warminster police, Weintraub said.
After two decades, this is what the public knows about the Nov. 10, 1993, murders of Bryan and Seann, who both worked part time at the West Coast Video store in the Rosemore Shopping Center on County Line Road:
Around 10 p.m., before the two locked the store for the evening, Bryan and Seann were attacked in the adult movie section of the store. The attackers (police believe there was more than one) used long-bladed knives, stabbing the men repeatedly in the back, neck and chest.
The two fought back. Both had stab wounds on their forearms described in the autopsy reports as defensive injuries.
Police found a wire to the store’s security camera had been cut. But the camera wasn’t working anyway; it didn’t activate until after the store was locked, police said.
There was $300 missing from the cash register, but several hundred dollars and both men’s wallets had been left behind.
There was no sign of forced entry. The front door was left unlocked and ajar. The murder weapon never has been found.
The next morning, the store owner found the bodies in the back room.
Eight Warminster police officers investigated, interviewing more than 300 people — including the 75 who had rented movies during the men’s 5-10 p.m. shift. No leads were developed.
Police and the DA’s Office explored possible connections with a similar murder a week later at a New Jersey video store, but determined the murders were unrelated.
Authorities dug into the lives of Bryan and Seann and found nothing extraordinary. They went to the same high school and had mutual friends. Both lived with their parents, within walking distance of the video store. Benson attended Bucks County Community College; Campbell worked full time at Sylvan Pools in Abington, according to the police and family members. Seann had worked at the video store for six years; Bryan had worked there for six months.
Her son wasn’t supposed to work the night of the murders, Benson said. He showed up thinking he was scheduled, and the manager asked if he’d mind staying. Bryan agreed.
“That was a typical Bryan thing,” she said. “He was so easygoing.”
Bryan’s dad was the last person to see the two alive. Gary Benson stopped by the video store around 9 p.m. to pick up movies. Everything seemed normal, so there was no reason for Gary to stick around, his wife said.
“That is what he has had to deal with for 20 years — why didn’t he stay there,” she said.
The murders shook the community to its core. Blue ribbons appeared on trees, doors, signs and clothes. Businesses and individuals contributed to a $52,000 reward fund that remains untouched, Janice Benson said.
Four months after the murder, then-Bucks County DA Alan Rubenstein, now a Common Pleas Court judge, announced a DNA sample had been obtained from what police and prosecutors still believe is the most promising piece of evidence — a half-inch fake diamond stud earring.
The earring, which had fresh tissue and blood on it, was found on the floor between the dead men. Police believe it may have been yanked out of an attacker’s ear during the struggle. No DNA match has ever been made.
Within months after the murders, the police investigation appeared to stall. The blue ribbons started disappearing.
Warminster moved on. But it never forgot.
News stories about the murders appeared in the newspaper occasionally, usually around a significant anniversary. For the families, the stories renewed the hope of jogging someone’s memory or conscience.
Two years after the murder, a jailhouse snitch named John Hall started calling Seann’s family from prison, claiming a fellow inmate serving a life sentence confessed to the murders, according to a 1997 news account. Investigators soon determined Hall had invented the story.
Also in 1997, Warminster police revamped the department’s five-person detective division and started looking at all the information that had been uncovered earlier by investigators.
That same year, a partially rusted knife was found behind the Rosemore Shopping Center. The police tested it, but it didn’t yield any evidence.
In 2003, on the 10th anniversary of the murders, Warminster police said they hadn’t had any new leads in at least a year.
Several days ago, Youngers said the last update she had from police was five years ago.
Youngers, who has since moved to Bedminster, remembers the last conversation she had with Seann a few days before the murder. They worked opposite shifts, so it wasn’t unusual for them to go days without seeing each other.
She reminded Seann she would leave his dinner in the microwave and that he should call home if he was going to be late, she said.
“I always ended my conversation with ‘I love you; be careful,’ ” she said.“And he’d say, ‘I love you, mom. You worry too much.’ ”
The Bensons, who have some theories about the murders, remain in Warminster.
“We’ve had 20 years to think about this,” Janice Benson said, declining to elaborate.
Youngers believes the murderer is already in prison, but that is all she’ll say. All these years later, she doesn’t want to risk compromising any facet of the murder investigation.
“If I never find out who did it, that is OK, because God knows who did it,” Youngers said. “Closure is when I put the lid down on the casket. That is the only closure I’ll get until I die.”
That the Bucks County District Attorney’s office has “actionable information” in the case has surprised Benson.
Over the years, the family contacted police with bits of information or pointed out similar crimes they read about. Warminster police never regularly updated the family on the investigation, she said. The family went to the police for updates, Benson said, adding that family members haven’t talked to the police in years.
“I guess we just got tired,” she said in a phone interview. “As time went by, it was like we weren’t getting anywhere.”
Like the community, both mothers said they’ve moved on and still have strong support from family, friends and coworkers. Neither woman is hopeful the murders will be solved.
In the days after the murder, Youngers said she had a sinking feeling, that she still can’t explain, that the murders would remain unsolved.
“It’s 20 years later and I’m not surprised in the least it has not been solved. Would I like to know? Yes, but do I torture myself over it? No,” she said. “You’ll make yourself crazy.”
Benson echoes those sentiments.
“If they haven’t found anything in 20 years, unless someone finally comes forward, I think we’ll just go to our grave not knowing who killed him,” she said. “But if they do solve it, it’s not going to bring Bryan back. The hurt and pain will always be there. There is no closure. I hate that word. You don’t close your son getting murdered.”


  1. I remember these boys. I moved out of Warminster in 1995 I had lived there the first 33 years of my life and this was the first murder I remember happening there. I was looking into this tonight wondering what was going on and hoping I would find that someone was convicted of this crime. I am sad to find out it has not been solved. I will keep praying there is justice in this case.

  2. I remember it well, having worked at the Rosemore Shop n' Save a few doors down in the center. As I understood it, due to the violence and notoriety of the crime the Philadelphia Police Department offered their help in the form of some experienced detectives. The Warminster Police Department, in all their arrogant glory, turned them down flat saying they could handle it and didn't need Philly's help. And it remains unsolved. It was one of many reasons my wife and I along with our young children relocated to Wyoming in 1999.

  3. I often think of these two young men. Very sad to see there has been no resolution.

  4. I often think of these two young men. Very sad to see there has been no resolution.

  5. I didn't know the two boys but it still felt like I did. I was 24 in 1993 and soon to be 25.I remember hearing the news and my heart breaking for them and their families and understanding why my parents always wanted me to check in when I got home.I think about them often even more so since I have become a father.I am not sure why maybe it's because of the press it got maybe because they were my age maybe because it's unsolved and I want the bastards caught maybe it's because I grew up in warminster and still live close. I wonder if any dna can be used or put into the system now and find a sympathy and prayers go out to the family members.I believe that Bryan and seann are not only missed by the people they knew but are somehow missed by the people they should have met in life there is an absence in this world that they should have filled. If anyone knows anything please come forward. Warminster police don't stop looking.

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  8. I went to both Funerals. Though I moved out of PA, the shock has never left me! My heart has always gone out to the families- especially Brian's brother! I'm waiting for the day they find the killer!!

  9. Seann was my nephew, by marriage. My father had jsut retired from the Warminster Police Department. IHe had a very strong opinion on the handling of this. He is dead now and perhaps he and Seann are discussing the horrible bungling of this investigaation. I used go to go to the township building asking if anything had chaned and was bushed off. I had an aunt who was a psychic and she shared her thoughts with the WPC to no avail. It will be 24 years this coming Saturday, and many of us still wonder how, why?

    1. Would you be willing to speak to me?

  10. Excuse my typos!! still get crazy thinking about this!

    1. . I didn’t read where there was an eye witness who seen the two perpetrators and gave a description of the two men who I seen in the Dollar General store first around 9:30-9:45 pm; the detective sent an sketch artist to my house and I was able to give a description of one of the men.
      One was around 5’5”-5’3”and the other one was freakishly tall with thick lips, the shorter one wearing camouflage clothing. The sketch artist sketched the tall man’s photo and the shorter one I described with a scarred acme face both with dark skin and hair but not African-American as if they were both from another country, their hair was like a white persons hair more like west indie Trinidad/Columbian something on that line.
      I do believe they were targeting the Dollar General store first. I entered the General Dollar store that night and seen these two men stop in their tracks and look at me then at one another as I entered the store, at this point it was one female worker and me and the two men I immediately picked up something was about to go down as I walked towards the back of the store and the worker was to the far left stocking shelves. The two men focused on me at this point both of them having their own communication style with one another as the tall one was able to see over the shelves to make eye contact with the shorter one. I kept an eye on them noticing they were trying to close in one me and I quickly ran closer to the doors yelling out to the store worker “excuse me miss my husband is waiting in the car outside for me and I don’t have much time, I was wondering when you were getting in the play tea sets” at this point I made my way to the door and she turned around to see she had three customers in her store, I don’t think she even knew they were in the store with her by the look on her face. I told the detectives to check the Dollar General’s video cameras from that night. Not sure if the detectives even took my story serious. I do know I out smarted them that night and I will never forget it!
      Karen Ann Calvanese (Nice)

    2. I remember this case and when it happened. I used to go to Rosemore Shopping Center all the time. I don't remember ever seeing any sketches of possible suspects in any of the coverage of it. That is a damn shame if WPD had information like that and never let it out to the public. It could have helped with possible leads.
      I lived in Warminster for half of my life and never moved far from there. It is scary that a person/people are capable of such evil and they are probably still walking around free as a bird. Free to do it again!

    3. They never released the sketches. They are in the files though. I didn't and don't understand who they screwed up that investigation!

  11. I eye witnessed the 2 perps in the General Dollar store prior to the murders and gave the description to a sketch artist. I know they didn't take me serious. I told conveyed my story on this site.

    1. My last name at that time was Nice

    2. Karen, are you willing to speak to me?

  12. I still to this day can pick the perps out in a picture or walking pass me on the streets. I have a GREAT memory! Perhaps the police should show me their photos they have narrowing it down by removing females & caucasian males from their choices. I'm pretty sure scums like that had to been in custody at sometime or caught on video.

    1. They can also remove the Black males as well and Asians too

  13. I was thinking about these two boys again last night and wondering why with all the new technology and the advanced DNA testing this crime has not been solved? It is totally heartbreaking. I still live in the same place as then, which is just little over a mile from Rosemore Center. I have 4 sons who were 12, 20, 22, and 24 at the time the murders took place and these boys death has plagued my mind over the years. They could have been mine. Their families deserve the Warminster Police to go to the FBI and/or anyone who can open this case and bring to justice whomever did these murders to their loved ones and do it now! Have they looked into the then owner of the store who was said to be involved with drugs? Yes we have all moved on but we didn't forget about the killing of Bryan and Seann. The authorities need to step up with resolve for these 2 young men and break this case. Find their murderer/s!

  14. You commenters are incredibly naive and gullible. There is strong evidence that Warminster cops covered up this murder because the murderers were local drug dealers who had routinely bribed them. These dirty cops refused outside help because it would have uncovered the truth. The Warminster Police Department has a long history of criminal misconduct. Three chiefs were fired for alleged felonies, including sexual assaults. Elmer Clawges and James Gorczynski were two of them. Two were actually convicted. Several of their other officers were accused of sexual assaults, including of children. One "hero" cop, John Powell, was actually convicted of child molestation, but only because it occurred in an outside jurisdiction. Officer Michael Schmalz was arrested and prosecuted for a violent assault of a teen, but only because he was caught on a video that was never released to the public, probably because it proves his guilt. Prosecutors deliberately presented the usual very weak case against their bully buddy, so he was acquitted. Another Warminster cop fatally shot 89-year-old Marie Zienkewicz. The shooting was ruled justified by his crooked police force, even though taxpayers footed the $650,000 lawsuit settlement bill. I could go on and on. But keep believing that you have an actual police department in Warminster and not the violent, corrupt gang that it actually is.

  15. p.s.- The two killers were Warminster Heights drug dealers of Puerto Rican descent. The long-simmering racial tension was the motive, hence the rage displayed by the murderers. And just to be clear, Chiefs Elmer Clawges and James Gorczynski were convicted of assault and a $130,000 theft, respectively.

    1. I believe what you say. Still today I can ID these two perps and I wondered why the police don't have me do just that.

  16. Karen, I totally believe that you may have seen the murderers and thank you very much for still having compassion and concern for the victims and their families, as I have. But do not count on any help or validation from Warminster cops. They covered up these murders just as they covered up the hundreds (or thousands?) of acts of child molestation perpetrated by many of their police officers. Officer John Powell quit the Philly PD just to join Warminster's so that he could rape children with full immunity. The Warminster P.D. has long had a reputation for such treachery, as relentlessly reported by the media. But thankfully, Powell made the fatal mistake of perpetrating his crimes outside of the township in another county, so he was prosecuted and convicted. Thank god that said outside jurisdiction had the integrity to hold a cop accountable and not pull the usual coverup. As noted in my prior posts, the Warminster Police Department is a violent gang, not a real police force.

  17. I worked at WP for a short stint. They were many good officers, but many were corrupt. I was given information that a few of the officers were having sexual relations with at least one underage female police cadet. Her initials were GB. Many of the police officers including Clawges were dirty. I have a couple ideas of where I would dig, but I don't know how to go about it. I have a very strong theory, but I would want to make sure it remains confidential-I would not want to share it with WPD. Whom would I take this information to?

    1. Unknown, those "good officers" invariably covered up the crimes of the worst ones, so maybe they were not so wonderful after all. If your "ideas" and "theory" are about child molestations perpetrated by Warminster cops, I suggest that you notify a reporter at Philly who has reported about the subject, such as Julia Terruso. Her contact info is listed at the top of her articles. The statute of limitations for criminal charges is greatly extended for sex crimes against minors, so it is not too late to report those that occurred decades ago.

      If you have any information about the video store murders, you should present them to the FBI, who technically has jurisdiction because the store where the killings occurred was an interstate chain. Avoid contact with the Warminster police because you will become their target of retaliation for being a whistleblower.

  18. if FBI wants more info other than what I gave to the warm police they need to reach out to me. It will always be fresh in my mind....