Washington State Patrol detectives are making progress in a Kent hit-and-run cold case from 1999 that killed 14-year-old Jennifer Bedingfield as she crossed Benson Road (State Route 515) on her bicycle.
Because of that progress, the State Patrol has released a photo of the suspect’s car and is asking for the public’s help from anyone that may have information about a blue or brown 1982 Datsun 310 that was owned by someone in the Kent area in 1999 and later dumped in Enumclaw.
“A good lead on a suspect was created a couple years ago and a recent push on those leads created a situation of asking the public for help to identify who could have been driving the vehicle at the time of the collision,” said Detective Stacy Moate in a Tuesday email.
The State Patrol is handling the case because the incident occurred along a state highway.
Bedingfield was crossing State Route 515 (aka Benson Road/Highway) at Southeast 224th Street at about 9:20 p.m. on May 8, 1999, when she was struck by an unknown driver who fled the area, according to a Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound flyer. The vehicle was described as a blue or brown 1980-82 Datsun 310, which detectives later found abandoned in Enumclaw.
Crime Stoppers will pay an award of $1,000 cash for any information that leads to the arrest of the driver. Contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
The State Patrol created a team in 2016 to address the agency’s approximately 100 cold cases.
“The bulk of those 100 cold cases are fatality hit-and-run collisions, which are extremely hard to solve but still deserve attention and efforts of the team,” Moate said.
Moate said the team meets for a couple of weeks a couple of times a year to focus efforts to the selected cold case for that session.
“By holding cold case sessions we are able to focus on the cold case at hand without daily duties and current case load interfering,” Moate said. “Another goal of the WSP cold case team is to attempt to locate the people on the WSP Most Wanted list.”
Even before the cold case team took on the Bedingfield death, detectives had been working on the investigation off and on for about four years and making progress, Moate said.
Detectives also keep in touch with Lance Bedingfield, the father of Jennifer, who supports the continued efforts. Bedingfield, who witnessed his daughter’s death, recently appeared on Q13’s Washington’s Most Wanted show to talk about the case.