UPDATE: Slain man's parents on carnival-ride company's presence: 'Scary'

UPDATE: Slain man's parents on carnival-ride company's presence: 'Scary'

CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign couple whose son was murdered by a carnival worker in Farmer City four years ago want the public to know the same ride operator that employed him is in Vermilion County this week.

A release from Champaign attorney Matt Duco said Cherri and Bard Benefield, parents of the late Blayne Benefield, 21, said the carnival-ride operator at the Vermilion County Fair, A&A Attractions, is run by Sue and Kevin Headley.

The Headleys employed brothers James and Alexander Jacquart, who were involved in killing the Benefields' son in September 2013.

Duco represents the Benefields in a pending civil suit filed in August 2015 in DeWitt County against Big H Amusements and its successor, A&A Attractions, both owned by the Headleys of Fairbury.

“It is scary that the Headleys are still putting on carnivals in our local communities after two of their workers brutally murdered our son,” Cherri Benefield said. “If the Headleys had followed the law and run a background check on their employees, my son would be alive today. It hurts me to know that they are still being trusted with children’s safety right here in our communities.”

James Jacquart, 29, of Valders, Wis., is serving a 35-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree murder for the September 2013 death of Mr. Benefield. His brother, Alexander Jacquart, 26, of the same town, pleaded guilty to dismembering a human body and obstructing justice for his role in Mr. Benefield’s death and is serving an 18-year prison term.

Rick White, Vermilion County Fair President, said this is the third year that the fair has used the Headleys’ carnival and they’ve had no problems with the owners or their staff.

“I can’t speak about their past,” said White, who said Sue Headley allowed him to examine a book that showed that their employees have received background checks.

The lawsuit filed by the Benefields alleges the carnival-company owners were negligent in not doing background checks, as required under Illinois law, that would have revealed both Jacquarts’ past criminal arrests. The suit also alleges the companies were negligent in keeping the brothers on staff.

Mr. Benefield was strangled, stabbed and mutilated and had his wallet stolen. His body was found about 7:15 a.m. on Sept. 7, 2013, in a lot near downtown Farmer City, which had been hosting its Heritage Days Festival.

The suit also said that shortly after Mr. Benefield’s murder, the Headleys changed the name of their carnival operation to A&A Attractions and have continued to put on carnivals.

A status hearing on the lawsuit is set for July 24.

White said the fair has had record crowds this week and a $6 admission fee that allows for unlimited carnival rides is partly responsible.

“Everything has gone smooth. We have talked to other fairs who have used these people. They all spoke favorably about them,” White said.

White said as a member of the fair board for over 40 years, he’s had plenty of experience with carnival operators.

“I’ve seen bad carnivals. We have had no bad experiences with these people since they’ve been here,” he said.

The Vermilion County Fair runs through Sunday.

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Orbiter wrote on June 23, 2017 at 4:06 pm

As far as I can tell from this story, and from looking at older articles about it, the two brothers involved in the killing are still serving time.  Their former employer is continuing to run a carnival business.  The parents' grief is certainly understandable, but has the carnival operator been convicted of anything? The parents are suing them for civil damages, but apparently that is ongoing. So why this story?  The lawyer sent out a shrill, scary warning to the community, but the business is assumed innocent (or else there would be further criminal charges pending). There may be past liability, but no evidence is presented that the carnival operator is still improperly screening employees. Why shouldn't they be running a legitimate business?  Seems to me there may be some other ulterior motive at work here, like a lawyer trying to hype up a weak lawsuit to catalyze a settlement (and a cut of the take).  No news here.

BruckJr wrote on June 24, 2017 at 4:06 pm