It still stands today as the city’s worst mass killing – five people slaughtered in an Outlaw motorcycle gang clubhouse on Independence Day 1979.
On Wednesday, 36 years and four days later, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced they closed the case.
Someone knew something, and decades of time – and the dogged pursuit by a homicide detective who wouldn’t give up – finally loosened that person’s lips.
Police won’t say who talked, but after sharing their findings with the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office, they were ready to name the two men they hold responsible for the slayings: Gregory Scott Lindaman and Randy Allen Pigg.
Both are long dead. Lindaman was killed in a traffic wreck in Houston on Oct. 15, 1990, and Pigg died in his Charlotte home Oct. 5, 2007, from liver disease.
For years, there has been speculation that a rival biker gang, possibly the Hell’s Angels, was responsible for the killings. Not so, police Maj. Cam Selvey revealed. It was to settle a personal score.
“One of the suspects had a confrontation with one of the victims,” Selvey said.
Selvey said the four others were executed just for being in the clubhouse. “Wrong place, wrong time.”
Another persistent rumor was that one of the victims’ bodies was mutilated. Not so, said Selvey. All died of pistol or rifle wounds.
He said the slayings never went to the department’s cold case squad. They have been under investigation with detectives assigned since they occurred.
“It doesn’t matter if the case is 36 hours old or 36 years old,” Selvey said. “This case never died.”
A deadly assault
In the 1970s, Charlotte was a major Southeastern hub for bandit motorcycle gangs the Outlaws, Hell’s Angels, Tasmanian Devils and Tar Heel Stompers.
They ran prostitution rings and dealt in wholesale narcotics such as PCP, cocaine and methamphetamine. Midway between chemists in Canada and markets in Miami, Charlotte was a key way station in the pipeline of new designer drugs of the age.
In a rented house at 2500 Allen Road South, the Outlaws kept a fortress. No one knows how the intruders got past its 8-foot fence and vicious dogs.
About 5:30 a.m. that July 4, Outlaw leader William “Chains” Flamont rode up to the clubhouse and discovered the slaughter.
William “Water Head” Allen, 22, was leaning back in a chair on the front porch, his body riddled by bullets. He was a probationary member of the club, and it appeared he had been taken by surprise while on guard duty. One leg was propped up, and a .38-caliber pistol lay in his lap.
Just inside the door, William “Mouse” Dronenburg, 32, was sprawled on the floor, legs wrapped in blankets on a couch. An unfired gun lay nearby.
On a sofa was Bridgette “Midget” Benfield, 5-feet tall and two months shy of her 18th birthday. She had been shot in the head. She had run away from her family’s Gaston County home after falling in with the biker culture months earlier.
Beside her was Leonard “Terrible Terry” Henderson, 29, resting beside an unfired gun. On another couch lay Randall Feazell, 28, bullet holes from leg to face.
“You’ve heard of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre,” a detective told reporters at the scene. “Well, this is the July Fourth massacre.”
Investigators believe the group was out until sometime around midnight the night before and were probably killed in their sleep.
Authorities said later that autopsies showed no trace of drugs or alcohol in the bodies of any of the victims. They were riddled by so many bullets that the medical examiner gave up counting.
Police recovered nearly 30 shell casings on the floor of the clubhouse.
A long investigation
Flamont, who would go on to work as a technician at Carolina Harley-Davidson Inc. in Gastonia after retiring from biker life, told police he suspected Hell’s Angels were behind the killings. They were in a territorial dispute with the Outlaws.
But detectives soon cast their suspicion on Pigg and Lindaman, who weren’t members of a gang.
Lindaman was picked up two weeks after the killings in San Bernardino, Calif., and returned to Charlotte in connection with a different killing, but charges were dropped.
Detectives also interviewed Pigg but couldn’t develop a case. Getting information was difficult because of the violent nature of the biker gangs and the criminal reputations of Pigg and Lindaman.
“These were bad people,” said Selvey. “I don’t use that term lightly.”
Pigg later faced marijuana and weapons charges. He went on to operate Pigg’s Welding Service for 18 years before dying at his Charlotte home under hospice care in 2007. When he died, friends gathered at Dirty Den’s Sports Bar on Central Avenue for a motorcycle procession to the funeral home.
A persistent investigator
A chain of detectives worked on the case through the years. Tim Jolly, a 28-year veteran of the force known for his handlebar mustache, is the last.
Jolly, who was the lead investigator in the case of slain schoolteacher Bianca Tanner, kept in touch with the constellation of people who might know something about the case.
In recent weeks, he was able to pry information that broke the mystery from someone whose identity is being protected. Last week, the new evidence was taken to the District Attorney’s Office, which was satisfied enough to declare the case closed.
“I was fortunate enough to work with a team of professionals who never gave up on this case,” Jolly said. “We hope that this outcome has given family members a measure of peace and sense of justice for their loved ones.”
A mother’s anguish
Sue Benfield said detectives visited her last week and told her they believed the two men took her daughter’s life.
“I’m glad they’re dead,” Benfield said. “I’m glad they’re not out here living a good life. I couldn’t think they killed her, and are out there and living a good life. I think about it constantly, especially when July 4 rolls around.”
Her husband, J.R. Benfield, died in a fire at their Mount Holly home in 2002.
“My husband died grieving for that little girl. He never gave up hope that whoever did it would be found. I just hate it he’s not here to know they’re dead.”