Investigation Discovery’s ‘Still a Mystery: What the Trees Know’ follows the mysterious disappearance and murder of 41-year-old executive concierge manager Benjamin Anderson, in Phoenix, Arizona, in December 2021. While the authorities found his burning body the same day he was reported missing, it took three days to identify the remains to be his. The episode tries to make sense of the suspicious and perplexing circumstances around Benjamin’s death. If you’re interested in knowing what happened, here’s what we know.
How Did Benjamin Anderson Die?
Benjamin “Ben” James Anderson was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, on September 17, 1980. He grew up in Glendale, Arizona, graduated from Centennial High School in 1999, and earned a Bachelor of Arts from Northern Arizona University. After college, Ben worked as a concierge manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Paradise Valley before serving as a personal assistant to a lovely couple for many years, traveling the world and making friends. He was an executive concierge manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, S.C., when he went missing in late 2021.
According to his co-workers, Ben thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team and cherished his relationships with his colleagues. One of his cousins, Lisa Dedeppo, said, “Ben had a big heart. He always wanted to be kind to people. That’s why a billion scenarios are going through our heads about how and who he got mixed up with and how something horrible might have been done to him.” His friends and family also described him as benevolent and caring, wondering whether these traits led Ben to the perpetrator(s) murdering him.
Ben’s childhood friend, Daniel Stahoviak, recalled one particular instance that he stated was unforgettable, and it motivated him to be more like Ben. He reminisced how Ben and his friends were driving around when Ben noticed a homeless woman sitting alone on the curb in a parking lot. An adamant Ben forced his friends to drive over to the lady, bought her food, and ensured she was safe before bidding her good night. His college friend, Susan Dzabko, laughed while recounting how they used to call Ben “Big Daddy.”
She reminisced how she bonded with Ben while discussing Michael and Janet Jackson in their college accounting class in August 2001. From then on, they became buddies and would power walk together, share once-a-year Big Mac meals, and jam to Kenny G in the car. She recalled, “Big Daddy could make us all feel like we were the most special person in the world and that we were all his best friend. But, even when he was tired or in a bad mood, he would manage to shake it off and show up for us in the way that only he could.”
The 41-year-old was supposed to meet Daniel — his friend of 24 years — for breakfast at 9:30 am on December 31, 2021. However, Ben called Daniel to cancel their meeting at 8:00 am, citing fatigue. Daniel explained that it was “not unusual” since Ben had been up in northern Arizona visiting friends and had driven a lot. Approximately two minutes later, Daniel texted Ben about an issue related to his work, with him replying that it had been resolved. Daniel stated that was the last time he talked to his childhood friend.
Was Benjamin Anderson Killed?
Ben’s aunt, Suzanne, phoned Daniel around 6:00 PM and stated she had not heard from him even though he had promised to come to her apartment. A concerned Daniel tried texting his friend but found his phone was switched off. As he was preparing to go over to his apartment, Ben’s other friend, Susan, also called Daniel, stating that he was not responding to her calls and that they went straight to voicemail. When Daniel arrived at Ben’s apartment, much was amiss, including the lights being turned on and his 2020 White Lexus UX gone.
Daniel also found money on the counter and Ben’s credit cards in a small bowl by the front door. The rooms were untidy, with clothes lying on the kitchen floor — highly uncharacteristic of Ben. However, the most concerning sign was the information on Ben’s “Find My Phone” app — his iPhone showed the last location was at the apartment before 9:00 AM on December 31. Daniel explained, “He never turned his phone off, so the fact that his phone hasn’t been pinged since and isn’t broadcasting any signals since then is highly unusual.”
He started calling, but no colleagues or acquaintances had heard from him. He also reported Ben missing to the Phoenix Police Department at around 7:30 pm. Some of Ben’s friends contacted Lexus for the automobile company to trigger its active tracking measure. While Lexus refused to disclose the car’s location initially, the company eventually relented and stated it was near Interstate 17 Black Canyon Highway. An officer went to the Super 8 by Wyndham off the I-17 and Northern Avenue — the last recorded location — but found nothing.
Ben’s friends decided to keep looking at hotels in the area and drove to the Sheraton on the other side of I-17. They found three individuals, including a man and a woman, sitting in Ben’s car on the fourth level of the parking garage. However, they drove away before the friends could call 911, and the vehicle was found in the UEI College parking lot, badly burnt and destroyed, at around 4:00 am on January 1. The authorities announced a $10,000 reward for any information regarding Ben’s disappearance.
According to police sources, Ben was last seen near his Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue apartment, and the UEI College parking lot was about five miles away. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office found an unidentified burning body in the desert near Table Mesa Road, west of Interstate 17, at about 1:40 PM on December 31. The crime scene was around 30 miles north of where his burning vehicle was discovered. A man had been practicing shooting in the area and called 911 after seeing smoke.
The authorities identified it as Ben’s through DNA and dental records on January 3 after Phoenix police liaised with the Sheriff’s Office. A teary-eyed Daniel recollected, “The detective said you do not want to see this body. It’s unrecognizable.” Ben’s friends and family alleged the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office refuses to provide updates on the case and has not revealed any more details on where the investigation stands even after more than a year.
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