Just Another Guy with Opinions

Killer of Homeless Man Caught

Posted by shadmia on January 25, 2009

John Robert McGrahamJohn Robert McGraham 2John Robert McGraham 3

Benjamin Mathew Martin, 30, was arrested at about 11:45 am on Jan. 22 2009 for setting a homeless man ablaze, killing him while he slept. The homeless man was later identified as John Robert McGraham, 55. The killing of John McGraham, which occurred on Oct 9 2008, garnered significant media attention both because of the brutal nature of the attack and because the attack occurred without any provocation. Read the full story here.

John McGraham was also featured on the TV program America’s Most Wanted which painted a melancholy picture of John’s life, who grew up with an abusive father, had an ill-fated love affair and suffered from depression which ultimately led to his homelessness.

John Robert McGraham 5John Robert McGraham - FuneralJohn Robert McGraham 4

The gruesome slaying of John Robert McGraham, 55, as he sat on his usual corner at 3rd and Berendo streets in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles on  Oct. 9, galvanized the multi-ethnic, largely working-class neighborhood. Martin is Latino, as are the neighborhood people who regularly gave McGraham — who was white — food and clothes. LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said the alleged motivation for the killing appears to be “straight-up personal dislike.” The crime provoked widespread introspection about the dangers faced by homeless people in the state. Hundreds gathered for vigils at the corner that McGraham called home.

“The attack occurred without any apparent provocation. The victim was totally helpless,” said LAPD Chief William J. Bratton. “The suspect intentionally set the victim on fire and then ran from the scene, leaving a red plastic gasoline container.”

Benjamin Martin was described as a former barber in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood with a grudge against the homeless. He has a previous criminal record for a drug offense. It was with the help of eyewitnesses and by matching his DNA on file, with evidence found at the crime scene, that the police were able to identify and eventually capture Martin. He was taken into custody in Rancho Mirage – 120 miles away from the scene of the murder.

McGraham’s sister, Susanne McGraham-Paisley, was very grateful to the police and the community for their support in capturing her brother’s killer. After hearing the news she called her brother David McGraham, who lives in Washington state. She started to cry soon after he picked up the phone.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“No, David, it’s OK,” she said between sobs. “They got him.”

He grew tearful as he recalled the phone call. “I thought, ‘My God, I can’t believe it. They got him.’ ”

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