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Bobby typically had a tender heart for underdogs. "He felt for other people," said his mother.

That was especially true about the emotionally handicapped and retarded children in his classes at school. "He was really kind to them," she said.


The memories of that other, gentler Bobby hidden under the problems, are the ones his parents still treasure. Dave Benson remembers the quick-witted kid who once insisted on cooking what he called a "gourmet" dinner.


"It was Hamburger Helper," his dad recalled with a chuckle.


To Wilbert Holck, a teacher and counselor at the Alternative Learning Center where Bobby Benson was attending classes during the last months of his life, the boy appeared to be trying to put his life back together.


"He was actually doing really well," said Holck. "He was improving. He told us he was trying to clean up and do better and go back to the main campus."


"I heard he was into drugs, into ripping off homes," said Holck, who has since left teaching, "but when I met him he didn't seem like that kind of kid. He seemed like a real nice kid."


That's why his death from a gunshot wound to the head, classified suicide by police, came as a shock.


Even today, seven years after Bobby's death at age 15, his mother believes it was an accident, not suicide. Her son had a fascination with guns, she said. She learned later, from some of his friends, that he like to play with a gun he had apparently stolen. He'd put it to his head, or a friend's, and pull the trigger.


But his father believes it was suicide. The night before his death, Bobby told friends "'I'm not going to see you guys anymore,'" said his father. When they asked him why, he said, "You'll find out," said Maj. Benson.


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