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October 4, 2022

‘Psychopathic’ Idaho professor committed murder-suicide

BOISE, Idaho — A college professor who alternately referred to himself as a “psychopathic killer” and “the beast” committed suicide after killing a graduate student he had recently dated, police said in newly revealed court documents.

Meanwhile, Katy Benoit’s family said Wednesday that the psychology student had become increasingly alarmed about Ernesto A. Bustamante’s behavior and had taken steps to get away from the man police say eventually killed her.

Bustamante’s body was found early Tuesday in a Moscow hotel room after the 31-year-old former University of Idaho professor apparently shot himself in the head with a revolver, police said. Benoit, 22, had been killed on the front porch of her Moscow home a day earlier.

Her two roommates told police they had been baking cookies late Monday when Benoit stepped outside for a cigarette and about two minutes later, they heard gunfire. Benoit had been shot multiple times with a .45-caliber handgun.

A neighbor, Lorne Hetsler, told police he heard the shots and saw a man, whom authorities later identified as Bustamante, leaving the home in a dark trench coat and hat.

A police affidavit filed Tuesday offers details of the relationship between Bustamante and Benoit, including violent encounters that were described by their friends and roommates.

Meghan Walker-Smith and Emma Gregory, Benoit’s roommates, told police that the romance ended in March. Gregory told authorities that Benoit after the breakup had said Bustamante pointed a handgun at her on multiple occasions and at one point had put a gun in her mouth, according to the statement.

Benoit’s roommates told police they had been concerned for her well-being because Bustamante had weapons and multiple personalities.

Rowdy J. Hope, who told police he was a close friend of Bustamante, “confirmed that Bustamante had multiple handguns and multiple personality disorders to include one Bustamante calls a ‘psychopathic killer’ and another Bustamante calls ‘the beast,’” Moscow Police Sgt. Bruce Fager said in the affidavit.

Benoit’s family said Wednesday she had previously shared details with them about her issues with Bustamante and had been deeply worried about his behavior.

“After receiving threats and intimidation from Bustamante, we believed Katy had obtained a restraining order, changed addresses and filed a complaint with the University of Idaho,” the family said in a statement.

The Associated Press was unable to confirm that a restraining had been issued against Bustamante in Latah County, where the university is based.

“Our family had grave concerns when we learned that the University of Idaho had received dozens of complaints from other students about Bustamante, and that, from what we understood, Katy was the only one willing to sign her name to a complaint,” the family said.

“We hope that the University of Idaho will be forthcoming in disclosing everything that went on this past summer in response to Bustamante’s behavior toward Katy and others, including the university’s involvement.”

The university has said Bustamante resigned effective Friday, but declined to comment on any specifics related to his employment, including saying whether Benoit had been one of his students, citing public records laws, school policy and the ongoing investigation.

“At this time, the university cannot provide any further information about either the existence of a relationship or actions the university may have taken with respect to these two individuals,” school officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Benoit’s roommates said she filed a complaint with the university in June over Bustamante’s behavior and he was either fired or forced to resign as a result, according to the police affidavit. Fager said it is unclear how the university handled the complaint because it was treated as a personnel matter and was confidential.

Authorities considered Bustamante as a suspect shortly after Benoit was found dead and served a search warrant at the University Inn Best Western in Moscow, where police found a car Bustamante had rented earlier that day. Prosecutors said Bustamante killed Benoit “with premeditation and with malice,” according to court documents filed Tuesday.

Before working in Idaho, Bustamante earned his bachelor’s, masters and doctorate degrees in psychology at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He married a fellow Old Dominion graduate, Xiomy Leon, in October 2002 in Venezuela, according to a school newsletter.

The union didn’t last and Leon has since remarried. A phone number listed for her in Chesapeake, Va., was disconnected.

Bustamante took a job at the University of Idaho in August 2007 and he was an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Communication.
Benoit had earned her undergraduate degree from the university in 2010 and just started her graduate studies in the psychology department.

In a statement Tuesday, her parents, Janet and Gary Benoit called her “a beautiful, intelligent and musically talented woman.”

“We are so saddened,” they said, “by her tragic death.”

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‘Psychopathic’ Idaho professor committed murder-suicide