FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tobacco heir Steven Wayne Benson broke into tears at his murder trial today when his lawyer played a tape recording of a violent argument between his mother and adopted brother, both killed in a car explosion.
The two-minute recording of the Sept. 12, 1983, argument between Margaret Benson, 63, and her adopted son Scott, 21, was the subject of surprise testimony by their former private secretary.
The secretary, Joyce Quinn, said Scott threatened to have his attack dog kill his mother 'more than a half dozen times' during the argument over the animal. Scott was angry because his mother had let the dog in the house, Quinn said.
'He ran over to her and grabbed her by the arms and kept shaking her and shaking her,' she said. 'He said if she ever did it again he would have the dog kill her.'
Quinn said Margaret went to get a cassette recorder and began taping the fight. She said Scott became angrier when he saw the tape and said he was going to take his mother to court.
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After the tape was played in court, Steven Benson, who is charged with planting the pipe bombs that killed Scott and Margaret Benson July 9, 1985, wept openly from his chair and began wiping his eyes with a white handkechief.
Quinn said that when she arrived for work at the Benson's luxurious Naples, Fla., home the morning of the argument she heard 'heavy, heavy breathing' coming from Scott's room.
Quinn, who now lives in Andover, Mass., said she called the police at Margaret's request after Scott grabbed his mother and the police came and took him away.
Court records show Scott Benson was committed to the psychiatric ward of Naples Community Hospital after the argument because he had been inhaling laughing gas.
Steven is charged with killing Scott and Margaret because his mother had caught him stealing from her and threatened to drop him from her $10 million Lancaster (Pa.) Leaf Tobacco Co. fortune, prosecutors said.
The defense claims drug dealers set the bombs in the family's van because Scott Benson owed them money.