Man pleads not guilty in motel slaying

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

James Allen Benuska, 39, has pleaded not guilty in district court to charges of murder and tampering with evidence in connection with the homicide of a Tucumcari motel clerk, according to court documents.

Helen Nancy Archibeque, 60, a night shift clerk, was found slain at the Microtel Inn last Wednesday morning, police said.
Services for Archibeque were held on Monday in Vaughn.

Police were called to the motel last Wednesday when motel patrons did not find anyone at the front desk. Archibeque was found in the laundry room near the front desk and shoe prints were found on the floor near her body, according to the statement of probable cause in court documents.

Interviews with a motel employee and the motel owner’s wife indicated that a guest, later identified as Benuska, had arrived on Sept. 18 and that he was behaving strange and exhibiting erratic behavior, according to the statement. It also states that “James was described as ‘scary.’”

Benuska was insistent to Betty Greenwood, the swing shift desk clerk, that he be awakened by midnight to catch a bus, the statement said. And this information was passed along to Archibeque when she arrived to work at 11 p.m. on Sept. 18, the statement said.

Police said Benuska, who is from Tarpon Springs, Fla., arrived in Tucumcari after he and his father had an argument en route from Arizona to Florida. The father hailed a state Department of Transportation officer and James Benuska said he no longer wanted to ride with his father and was taken by the DOT officer to the Tucumcari bus station. He got a room at the motel, which is across the street from the bus station, police said.

Last Wednesday morning, police made contact with Benuska at the bus stop, the statement said. Tucumcari Police “Detective (Jack) Hendrickson made a visual comparison of the shoeprints from the scene (of the slaying) and the shoes James was wearing at the time he was contacted at the bus stop and they appeared to match,” according to the statement.

Investigators learned from motel workers that Benuska had a black suitcase when he arrived and the suitcase was found at the dump site north of Tucumcari, according to the statement. “It was identified by the Southwest Airline tag that was affixed to the handle. The tag was inscribed with the name A. Benuska. James Benuska’s father is named Al. The suitcase contained clothing that is stained with what appears to be blood,” the statement said.

Benuska was not represented by an attorney at his arraignment on Thursday and a public defender is expected to be appointed, according to court documents.