Mandy Benn to stand trial in deaths of Make-A-Wish cyclists

Mandy Benn to stand trial in deaths of Make-A-Wish cyclists

A Michigan woman has been ordered to stand trial on murder and other charges after her vehicle struck five bicyclists riding in a summer Make-A-Wish charity event, killing two of them.

Ionia County District Judge Raymond Voet said during a preliminary hearing Thursday that Mandy Benn, 42, was high on a “cocktail of drugs,” despite testimony that she had only therapeutic levels of medication in her system, reported.

Voet also said Benn acted with a “wanton and willful … disregard of life.”

Prosecutor Kyle Butler told the court Benn was trying to pass a UPS truck in her 2019 Toyota RAV4 on July 30 on a rural road in Ronald Township when she crossed the center line and hit the bicyclists who were participating in a three-day endurance ride for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Benn had no alcohol in her system but had slurred speech and couldn’t follow instructions, said Butler, who added that there was evidence she used prescription drugs.

Edward Erickson, 48, and Michael Salhaney, 57, were killed. Three other men were seriously hurt.

Michael Salhaney
Michael Salhaney was killed during a charity cycle ride for the Make-A-Wish foundation.
Facebook/Michael Salhaney

WZZM-TV reported that a woman who lives along the road where the bicyclists were struck witnessed the crash.

“My window faces the road, and I saw a body flying through the air,” testified Shoni Mayle.

Mayle also noted that Benn showed “no emotion, nothing whatsoever” at the scene.

After the bicyclists were hit, Benn appeared confused and disoriented, Ionia County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Phillip Hesche testified.

Edward Erickson
Edward Erickson, 48, was also killed during the charity cycle run.
Facebook/Donald Erickson

“She looked right at me, and she says, ‘Wow, officer that almost looks real,’” Hesche said. “I was really taken aback by that. It was like she was on a different planet.”

A prosecutor played in court audio recordings that Benn had made just moments before the crash.

“I seriously just want to move to a dark corner and kill myself,” she says in one of the audio clips. “I’m not exaggerating. I want to die because it doesn’t seem to matter what I do or try.” 

Geoffrey French, a state police toxicology unit supervisor, testified that three prescription drugs were found in Benn’s system, including the anti-anxiety medication Benzodiazepine. Prosecutors said she did not have a prescription for one of drugs.

French agreed with defense attorney Walter Downes that there were therapeutic levels of medication in her system. “None of the results were super, super large,” French testified.

But the medications can have adverse effects, he said while being questioned by the prosecution.

Timothy Kolanowski, a cyclist that was hit, testifies during Mandy Benn's preliminary examination.
Timothy Kolanowski, a cyclist that was hit, testifies during Mandy Benn’s preliminary examination.
Joel Bissell/ Grand Rapids Press/AP

Benn is expected to be arraigned at the end on the month on 15 charges, including second-degree homicide murder; operating under the influence causing death; reckless driving causing death; controlled substance, and driving reckless.

Erickson, of Ann Arbor, was a senior manager at Toyota with a wife and two children.

Salhaney, of Bloomfield Hills, was a former Oakland County prosecutor who was working in private practice at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife and their seven children.

Both men were avid cyclists who were heavily involved in charity work.

With Post wires