Idaho professor suspected of murder found dead

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 24, 2011 2:59 PM
Idaho professor suspected of murder found dead

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A former psychology professor at the University of Idaho suspected of killing a graduate student was found dead on Tuesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

The outburst of gun violence shook the campus in Moscow, Idaho as the fall term was about to begin, prompting the school to reschedule convocation ceremonies that had been planned for Tuesday.

Moscow police identified the Venezuelan-born professor, Ernesto Bustamante, 31, as a suspect in the slaying of a female graduate student of psychology, Katie Benoit, 22, of Boise, who was found shot to death at her off-campus house on Monday.

The student suffered multiple bullet wounds from a .45-caliber handgun, police said.

Investigators later Monday traced Bustamante to a Moscow hotel room and sought unsuccessfully through the night to talk him into surrendering peacefully, police Lieutenant James Fry said. After finally entering the hotel on Tuesday morning with a search warrant, police found his body, Fry said.

Fry said detectives were still trying to ascertain the nature of the relationship between Bustamante and Benoit, and a possible motive for the violence, adding, "I'm sure they knew each other, we don't know how well."

University of Idaho spokeswoman Karen Hunt said the northern Idaho school, with a student body of 12,000, was shocked and saddened by the events and that grief counseling was being offered to students, faculty and staff.

"We're just trying to get through today," she said.

Hunt said Bustamante worked as an assistant professor of psychology for the university beginning in 2007. He resigned from that position earlier this month for unspecified reasons.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune)