Nephew of Al, Bobby Unser Slain; Father Lives in O.C.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

One of two bodies with gunshot wounds found dumped near a mountain residence was identified Monday as a nephew of auto racing greats Al Unser Sr. and Bobby Unser.

The victims found Sunday were identified as Jeff Unser, 40, and Lee Noel Benjamin, 39, both of Albuquerque.

“Apparently their bodies had been dumped there along with two overstuffed orange chairs,” said Bernalillo County sheriff’s spokeswoman Ronni Sparks. “We believe the chairs were connected [to the killings]. They’re part of the evidence. We think we know where they came from.

“We believe that there may have been drugs involved,” she said, adding that a suspect was in custody in the case Monday.


Jeff Unser was a son of Louis Unser of Anaheim.

“He was a nephew,” Al Sr. said.

Louis Unser, reached at his Anaheim home, said his son had been adopted and raised by stepfather Gene Holmes and had used the Holmes name. He said there had been little contact over the years, although Jeff had visited him in Anaheim for a weekend several years ago. He said his son was not involved in racing.

“I have no idea how he died or exactly what happened,” said Louis Unser, who suffers multiple sclerosis and has difficulty speaking.

“When Al called me this morning and said, ‘Your boy died,’ that was the first time I heard anything. Then we called Jeff’s girlfriend. She knew more than anybody else I talked to.”

The girlfriend, identified only as Chris, did not immediately return telephone messages left by Associated Press.

LaVerne Unser, Louis’ wife, said Gene and Bonnie Holmes are on a trip to Puerto Rico and she didn’t know how to reach them. Bonnie Holmes was Louis Unser’s first wife, she said.

“I do know that Jeff loved his stepdad and loved his mom very much. He had a good life there in Albuquerque,” LaVerne Unser said.

Steven Michael Bartlett, 37, was arrested late Sunday after a tip that a vehicle connected with the case was parked outside Pete’s Restaurant in Sandia Crest, Sparks said. Bartlett lives behind the restaurant, she said.

“Leads obtained from that vehicle led to the arrest of Bartlett late last night,” Sparks said.

Bartlett was being held in lieu of $250,000 bond following arraignment Monday in Metropolitan Court, she said.