Missoula woman arrested on deliberate homicide charges

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula woman has been sentenced to 20 years in state custody after pleading guilty but mentally ill for breaking into a neighbor's apartment and stabbing him to death as he slept.

Nancy Leann Wright, 49, was sentenced Tuesday for mitigated deliberate homicide in the November 2019 death of Phillip Benjamin, 42, the Missoulian reported.

Benjamin worked for Opportunity Resources and had home health care because he had a traumatic brain injury and epilepsy.

“He was kind and gentle and looked out for those that were, to him, in need," his mother, Ann Benjamin, testified. “He stood up to bullies and those that tried to take advantage of others.”

Court records say Wright was arrested by officers investigating a report that she had gone into someone else’s apartment, sat down and started smoking. Officers asked her if she’d ever broken into Benjamin’s apartment and she volunteered: “I killed him” and “I was told to do it.”

Wright's attorney, Bill Lower, said his client understands “she perpetuated a horrible tragedy that has taken a person's life."

But he noted at the time of the stabbing she was not taking medication or receiving treatment for schizoaffective disorder — a combination of symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorders, such as depression or mania.

Wright appeared for sentencing via video from the state psychiatric hospital in Warm Springs, which is where she will begin her sentence. She received credit for the just over two years she's already spent in custody.

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