Goshen man pleads guilty to double homicide in killings at Papa Johns store in Elkhart

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Jose Benitez-Tilley will serve a 65-year sentence for pleading guilty to murdering Haley Smith and Dustin Carr at an Elkhart Papa Johns.
Jose Benitez-Tilley will serve a 65-year sentence for pleading guilty to murdering Haley Smith and Dustin Carr at an Elkhart Papa Johns.

ELKHART — A former employee of a Papa Johns location in Elkhart has pleaded guilty to murdering two ex-coworkers there in February.

Jose Benitez-Tilley, 20, shot and killed Haley Smith, 22, and Dustin Carr, 37, who were reportedly engaged, at the restaurant in the 1500 block of Cassopolis Street after going there to ask for his job back on the evening of Feb. 13.

Their bodies were found in an alley behind the store the next day.

Benitez-Tilley pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and will receive the maximum 65-year sentences on each count. However, the counts will run concurrently with each other, per the plea agreement.

As another condition of the agreement, prosecutors are dismissing a charge of abusing a corpse, which was filed after Benitez-Tilley allegedly admitted to sexually assaulting Smith's body after she was dead.

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Elkhart police were called to the Papa Johns just after 10 a.m. on Feb. 13 when an employee coming in for the day shift found the bodies in the alley outside. Responding officers notified the Elkhart Homicide Unit, which handled the investigation.

Police learned that Benitez-Tilley was a former employee at the store and that he had "unspecified issues" with other workers, court documents say. Witnesses told police Benitez-Tilley came to the branch on Saturday night hoping to get a job and was the only person in the store with Smith and Carr as they closed up, according to the documents.

Surveillance footage from a nearby store showed a man get out of a gold Dodge Caravan and go into the store, court documents say. After about 30 minutes, the footage suggests, the man walked out and drove the car around to the back of the restaurant with the lights off.

The next day, police located the gold Dodge outside of Benitez-Tilley's home in Goshen and arrested him.

Benitez-Tilley's sentencing is set for mid-July.

Email Marek Mazurek at mmazurek@sbtinfo.com. Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Jose Benitez-Tilley pleads guilty to double homicide at Papa Johns