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Fort Lewis soldier faces charges over girl found dead on base

TACOMA, Wash. — A 19-year-old Fort Lewis soldier will face a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a high school sophomore whose body was found on the post last month, the Army announced Tuesday.

Timothy E. Bennitt, a native of Indiana, also has been charged with wrongful distribution and use of controlled substances and conspiracy to wrongfully use controlled substances.

The case will be presented for a hearing similar to that of a civilian grand jury. Bennitt could face court-martial as a result of the hearing. He could face 82 years in prison.

Leah King, a Lakes High School sophomore, was found dead at a post barracks early Feb. 15. Investigators determined the teen died of a toxic combination of Xanax, which is used to treat panic disorders, and Opana, a pain reliever. Some of the drugs were inhaled.

Another 16-year-old girl was found unresponsive at the same time and was released from a hospital after treatment. Both girls were acquainted with a soldier living in the barracks.

Army investigators suspect Bennitt, who reported to Fort Lewis in December 2007, was dealing to other soldiers.

Fort Lewis officials also announced a new process for gate entry to the base amid reports of girls sneaking onto the base. Minors must sign in at visitor's center. There will be tougher screening, officials said.

Read the full story at thenewstribune.com

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