Man arrested for strangling death in Phoenix park

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By Jayson Chesler By Jayson Chesler

PHOENIX -- A man surrendered to the police after allegedly choking another man to death during a confrontation at Solano Park at 17th Avenue and Montebello Avenue, according to court documents.

Police were called to the park at roughly 6 a.m. on June 22. When they arrived, they found Jimmie Kerley dead under a picnic ramada. Kerley's death was ruled a homicide by strangulation and he had marks on his neck that indicated the use of a rope or another weapon. Witnesses described an argument that happened under the ramada, but they were far away when it occurred and didn't know many details.

The victim's family told police that Kerley was missing a backpack and his wallet, along with some other items. Police tracked Kerley's debit card information and found that someone attempted to use it at a grocery store north of the park later on June 22. Surveillance video showed a man in dark clothing and a woman in a wheelchair trying to make a purchase, but the card was declined.

On July 27, the Phoenix Police Department received a call from Patrickson Benally, who said that he may have killed someone in self-defense. Benally said he strangled someone after the person attacked him with a knife.

Benally said he went to the park drunk and looking to get beer from someone in the park. Once in the park, Benally said he met up with someone named "Shorty," who he has known for some time. He said the two of them approached the victim, but that Kerley was already angry and attacked them with a knife for an unknown reason.

Benally denied using a rope or tool to choke Kerley and said he used his legs to perform a triangle choke. He said that "Shorty" took the victim's debit card and gave it to him, so he used it at the grocery store with his aunt -- the woman in the wheelchair in the surveillance video -- then destroyed it.

A knife was not found at the scene. Benally faces charges for first degree murder, aggravated robbery and credit card theft.