Wife Stopped Locker Rent -- Suspect Refused To Visit Locker Containing Bodies

The monthly checks that kept storage locker 929 rented to Mark "Bill" Bender for the past dozen years suddenly stopped this February because his second wife decided she would no longer pay for it, say King County police.

Detective Sue Peters said the woman apparently chose on her own, and unbeknownst to Bender, to stop paying for the Federal Way storage unit.

"I don't think he knew the payments had stopped," said Peters.

When the locker was finally opened Wednesday, the remains of three bodies were found inside. They are believed to be those of Bender's first wife, Barbara Bender, then 36, and their two sons, Brian, 9, and Mark, 16. The three, who all died of head injuries, had been missing since April 1980 - two months after Bender rented the locker at Shurgard Storage.

Bender arrived in Seattle late last night after waiving extradition during an appearance in Canyon County Superior Court in Idaho. He will be arraigned here next week on three counts of first-degree murder.

Shurgard Storage had auctioned off the contents of the storage unit sight unseen. The new owner, who paid $90 for the rights to the contents, found the bodies wrapped in plastic and wire.

Bender's current wife, Ann, whom he met in about 1984, and her daughter questioned Bender, 50, as to why they were paying for the storage unit instead of just picking up the contents and bringing them back to Idaho, where his present family lived, Peters said. He

allegedly declined to discuss it.

About a year ago, Bender's stepdaughter allegedly asked one of his friends in the Seattle area if she knew why he continued to pay rent on the storage unit. She said that Bender had refused to go to the unit when he and his wife visited the Federal Way area.

George Gennai, the Puyallup man who discovered the bodies after purchasing the contents of the locker, said he was digging through a pile of clothes when he found the three packages, each wrapped five to eight times in thick black plastic and bound with baling wire.

The wire had been twisted to serve as makeshift handles. On top of each bundle was a crucifix, a set of rosary beads and a Bible, he said.

Gennai said an odor made him suspect the packages contained human remains, and he unrolled the plastic wrappings himself to make sure. The discovery was a grisly experience, he said, but not one for which he was wholly unprepared.

"I was in Vietnam," he said. "I've seen this before."

A hatchet, with what appeared to be blood and hair on it, was found in the storage unit, wrapped in a white towel, court papers disclose.

Bender and his new wife lived in Nampa, Idaho, where he became lauded as an outstanding used-car salesman. He was described by his boss, Timbre Wolfe, and co-workers at Happy Day Ford as a convincing salesman who was able to secure a good living.