Man convicted in 1988 cold case murder sentenced to life in prison

Ex-convict found, convicted after nearly 30 years

PONTIAC, Mich. – An ex-convict who was found guilty of murder nearly three decades after an 88-year-old widow was found dead in her suburban Detroit home will spend the rest of his life in prison for it.  

Billy Joe Bennett was charged last year after investigators linked the 55-year-old to DNA evidence.

He was found guilty of felony murder by a jury in February. 

Investigators said they believe Elnora Barrager died of a heart attack in 1988 as a result of being raped after a break-in at her Pontiac home.

“You coldly calculated your crime and now you will pay back for what you did behind bars, for hopefully the rest of your pathetic life," grandson Michael Barrager told Bennett.

Bennett testified at trial that he didn't hurt her, and maintained that at his sentencing on Tuesday. 

"I'm not guilty of any of this," he told the court.

Bennett told Judge Leo Bowman that his defense attorneys "sabotaged" his trial by not filing motions he had asked them to. 

Bowman said Bennett had a right to appeal, but scolded him. 

“This crime requires that you be removed from society. Because I am satisfied that you are a danger and you are a threat," Bowman said. 

Prosecutors said Bennett targeted Barrager because he had known her previously. Witnesses testified that he did yard and house work for her.