The Duncan Banner

September 3, 2013

Man accused in Velma teen’s death reports suicide attempts

Miles Bench to be arraigned this week

Mike Smith
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — The man accused of killing 16-year-old Braylee Rae Henry of Velma last year told a psychologist he twice tried to commit suicide in the Stephens County Jail.

The report on the mental evaluation of Miles Sterling Bench, which was unsealed after a judge declared him competent to stand trial for murder, also said Bench was apprehensive about his attorneys in the case.

Bench, now 22, is scheduled to be formally arraigned Thursday on a first-degree murder charge stemming from Henry’s death on June 6, 2012. He was arrested hours after she was allegedly killed in a Velma convenience store where Bench worked as a clerk.

Court proceedings were on hold for months while Bench’s defense attorneys, who handle death-penalty cases for the state’s Indigent Defense System, pursued the possibility that Bench could not help in his own defense and was incompetent to stand trial.

The attorneys dropped that during a hearing Aug. 7, citing in part a report by Scott Orth, a psychologist at the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita. Stephens County District Court Judge Joe Enos then ruled Bench competent to stand trial and set the arraignment date.

The Banner has previously reported on some details of the competency evaluation done in February, but not all of them, including his claims that he tried to kill himself.

The report says Bench talked of suicidal thoughts, stating, “Yeah, I’ve been thinking of how I could do it.”

It said Bench did not have any documented incidents of “self-injurious” behavior during his stay at the Forensic Center, but he said he twice tried to commit suicide in the Stephens County Jail.

On one occasion, he said he had stockpiled Tylenol and Advil and planned to take them all at once. But jail staff found them during a shakedown of his cell, he said.

He said there was another attempt.

“I tried to hang myself with a sheet but it wasn’t strong enough and ripped,” he said.

Orth said he was not given any incident reports to substantiate or refute Bench’s statements.

Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney, whose office oversees and operates the jail, said it was possible Bench had tried to stockpile aspirin. He said he was not aware of the second claim and likely would have been informed if it had merit.

McKinney said he was skeptical about any claims because “he’s been trying to play the crazy card” all along.

The report said Bench expressed apprehension about his public defense attorneys, saying, “I can’t trust them” and suggesting that privately paid lawyers “might do better.”

None of his statements appeared to be delusional, Orth concluded.

“Rather his statements appear to reflect a negativistic view of his current legal situation, not uncommon for defendants in similar legal situations,” Orth wrote.

Bench indicated that he had been discharged from the Navy after going AWOL and his employment history after that involved service industry jobs. He was working as a clerk at the Tee Pee Totem convenience store in Velma on the night Henry was killed.

He did not report any physical problems during the evaluation but did say he felt weaker and had lost weight.

During his court appearance last month, Bench looked much thinner than he did when booked after his arrest.

In an interview preceding the one-year anniversary of Henry’s death, her mother — Renee Henson — told The Banner she was frustrated that court proceedings had taken so long. Bench has yet to make a formal plea in the case although that is expected Thursday.

But, Henson said she had coped with her daughter’s death through faith and the love of family, friends and the people of Velma.

She wanted to focus on Braylee’s life and celebrate that, she said, because “evil has already taken so much.”