DETROIT – Jeremy Lee was sentenced Monday to 25-60 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge for the murder of a 29-year-old Melvindale woman.
Amanda Lynn Benton was reported missing Sept. 28, 2016. She was found dead two days later in a vacant home on Vanderbilt Street near West End Street in Southwest Detroit. Lee was sentenced Monday morning by Judge Thomas Cameron.
"This was a senseless and brutal murder where you assaulted and strangled a pregnant woman, threw her in the trunk of a car. You took her to an abandoned building and you set her on fire -- her and her unborn child," said Cameron before he handed down the sentencing.
Lee's attorney did argue for a possible lighter sentencing because, he said, investigators would not have found Benton's body if it weren't for information they got from Lee.
Benton's mother and father both gave emotional statements in court before the sentencing. They recalled Amanda as a giving person and loving mother of four boys.
Watch their statements here:
Lee, 16, said he did not want to give a statement in court before he learned he would spend at least the next 25 years in prison.
Lee and 23-year-old Jacob Barnes were arrested in September and originally charged with felony murder, first-degree murder, assault of a pregnant individual, intentionally causing death of a fetus and mutilation of a dead body. But Lee pleaded guilty to second degree murder and the rest of the charges were dismissed. Barnes is scheduled to go to trial in May.
Both Barnes and Lee first pleaded not guilty to the charges and were not granted bond. Lee has been held at a juvenile detention facility while Barnes is being held in the Wayne County Jail.
Barnes also was given a habitual offender fourth offense notice because of prior convictions, which holds a mandatory 25-year sentence. The maximum sentence is life, or a lesser term because of the prior convictions.
Family members clash outside court
The men were in court this past October for their arraignments. Family members clashed outside the courthouse. The video allegedly shows Benton’s uncle throw punches at a family member of one of the suspects.
*Warning: There is some explicit language in the video:
According to authorities, Barnes and Lee fatally assaulted Benton at Woodmere and Cabot streets. She was beaten in the head, neck and abdomen, before they put her in the trunk of her car and drove to the vacant house on Vanderbilt Street where they allegedly set her body on fire, officials said.
Police said the men drove off in her car and left it in southwest Detroit.
Barnes and Lee were taken into custody Sept. 30.
Family: Benton killed over Dodge Neon
Family members say Benton was battling addiction and that she was killed over a car.
“My daughter had some demons she was fighting,” Tom Benton, Amanda’s father, said. “She was turned away from so many different rehabs because she didn’t have the right insurance or enough money.”
Family members said Amanda was trying to kick the habit.
Florine Harper, Benton’s mother, said she was killed over a Dodge Neon. She also said that Amanda was burned alive.
“How can someone so young be so evil?” Tom Benton said. “They tortured my daughter.”
Here is the Local 4 report from Oct. 3: