ELKO – A White Pine County man has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first degree murder in the slaying of Nevada Highway Patrol Sgt. Ben Jenkins, in exchange for dropping the death penalty.
The Ely Times reported Monday that John L. Dabritz also pleaded guilty to related charges in the case.
White Pine County District Attorney James Beecher recommend that Dabritz, 66, be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28 in White Pine County District Court.
“The decision to come to this resolution was made in close consultation with the family of Sergeant Benjamin Jenkins and multiple law enforcement agencies,” Beecher said. “This resolution was not made with the thought of mercy for the Defendant, but to provide the family with swift and final closure, without protracted appeals or requiring them to relive the horrific incident though trial.”
Dabritz was arrested March 27, 2020, following a chase after he shot Jenkins along U.S. Highway 93 in White Pine County.
The NHP reported that Jenkins had stopped to check on Dabritz while he was parked along the highway. Dabritz shot Jenkins, took his uniform and fled in his patrol vehicle.
“The officer had come up to the side of the road, and I had shot him,” Dabritz told White Pine County District Court Judge Steve Dobrescu, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported after a hearing that was livestreamed from court. “He was killed.”
Jenkins’ uncle Charlie Meyers reacted to the news of Dabritz’s plea on Monday.
“There’s no doubt that he’s guilty. I’m just glad he pleaded [guilty],” Meyers said. “I hope the judge takes into consideration the condition my nephew was left in [on the road] when he is sentenced.”
Jenkins, 47, was an Elko native who began working for the Highway Patrol in March 2008 as a trooper in Jackpot and was promoted to sergeant in Elko in 2017.
In 2011, Jenkins received the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s highest honor, the Gold Medal of Valor, which is presented to officers who perform an extraordinary act of heroism.
He is survived by his wife, his mother, four children, and five grandchildren.
In February, Dabritz pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of open murder, third-degree arson, grand larceny of a motor vehicle, and grand larceny of a firearm.
He was also charged last year in Nye County with possession of an explosive device and possession of a component of an explosive device with intent to manufacture.