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Phone call to wrong cell helps thwart love triangle violence
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Manteca patrolman David Brown has a serious conversation with Martel Benson, 22, after tracking down a couple from an open cell phone line where an alert citizen reportedly listened to death threats. Officer Mike Kelly transported Benson to the police department on two felony warrants — one for no bail for assault with a deadly weapon, a second for possession of marijuana for sale — and yet another, for a misdemeanor grand theft warrant, police said. - photo by GLENN KAHL

An alert citizen may have been a hero without knowing it at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning as Manteca Police exhausted efforts to thwart a possible tragedy.

The man called police to say someone had called his cell phone — he said, “hello” — but the other end was just an open line.

He heard voices of a man and a woman arguing.  He believed people on the other end of the line were in some type of verbal domestic confrontation, he told police. The man heard death threats being made against the woman and her new boy friend, officers added.

The citizen stayed on the line for about 30 minutes and believed he was overhearing a confrontation involving a love triangle by an old boyfriend who said he would drown the couple — walking them into some body of water.

Officers worked feverishly for three hours attempting to locate the position of the T-Mobile cell phone — not knowing just how critical a time element they were dealing with.

Police eventually located the phone in the 300 block of Scenic Place just blocks from the police station finding the owner standing out in her driveway. They asked if she was OK and if she was alone or there was a man inside her home.

She reportedly said she was fine and alone but officers were not convinced and asked to search her residence for her personal welfare.

In an upstairs bedroom they found Martel Benson, 22, sitting on a bed.  Benson had allegedly forced the woman to drive him to the home of her new boy friend but she said she had just kept driving in circles around town and had never gone to his residence.

Benson was jailed on outstanding felony warrants for failing to appear in court — one a no bail warrant — the other a misdemeanor charge for grand theft, police said.  The last two warrants carried bail of $20,000 each.

The no bail warrant charges included infliction of great bodily injury, dissuading a witness by force or threat, second degree robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.   The dissuading a witness and robbery charges had been dismissed by the court “in the furtherance of justice.”

The second felony warrant involved possession of marijuana for sale and a prior serious felony which was denied.

As officers were about to leave the home, and were standing by a patrol unit at the curb,  the woman came out of the house walking slowing toward the three patrolmen.  In a very serious demeanor she said, “Thank you.”

Officer Dave Brown responded saying they had to check the house for her welfare.  Had they left and Benson thought she had called police the consequences could have been tragic, he said.  She could possibly have been killed in retaliation.

The woman declined to file charges telling officers she never took the threats seriously.  She added that her phone often calls random numbers on its own — its random calls Wednesday morning got a lot of attention.

Benson was transported to San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp.  His court date has been set for January 15 at 8:30 a.m. in the Manteca branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court.