Man sentenced 22 years to life for ‘execution-style’ murder
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CHALLIS – A judge called it an execution-style killing as he sentenced a Challis man Tuesday for the murder of Charles “Charlie” McBride.
“I take no pleasure in imposing this sentence,” District Judge Steven Thompson said. “Nothing will bring back Charlie McBride. You didn’t think about that when you drove him out and killed him. It’s really an execution-style killing.”
District Judge Steven Thompson sentenced 36-year-old Benjamin J. Savage to a minimum of 22 years and up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. Savage shot and killed McBride in a remote area of Custer County on Feb. 25, 2019. Savage then burned and buried the body before leading investigators to the site nearly a month later.
Little is known about the killing as court documents outlining the shooting remain sealed. Investigators continue to look into the possible involvement of others, including Savage’s girlfriend, who may have influenced the premeditated murder, according to defense attorney David Cannon. EastIdahoNews.com is not naming the woman since she hasn’t been charged in connection to McBride’s death.
Cannon outlined a conversation that took place the day before the murder involving several women who implied that McBride had been in relationships with underage girls and possibly used drugs. Savage was aware of the information and Cannon suspected it may have played a role in the killing.
“That’s hearsay, can he even say that?” family members of McBride said in an outburst to the statement. The comments prompted Thompson to ask them to remain quiet.
Savage pleaded guilty to the murder in exchange for shorter minimum prison time. As part of the plea agreement, Savage agreed to give a full confession of the killing, where he implied his girlfriend may have been involved.
Cannon said the girlfriend wasn’t actually in Challis at the time of the murder, but in Twin Falls. He said that showed she intended to build an alibi.
The plea agreement stipulated that Custer County prosecuting attorney Justin Oleson recommend Savage spend 20 years to life in prison. Oleson argued such a sentence satisfied a case without a trial in what he called “cold-blooded murder.”
A packed courtroom included both the Savage and McBride families. McBride’s sister-in-law, Mari McBride, said she’s been trying to wrap her head around what happened and why someone would want to kill McBride, a father of a 3-year-old boy.
“He was just being a jealous and evil person,” she said.
Savage’s mother, Rosemary Savage, took the stand and asked Thompson to give a lenient sentence so her son could return to his daughters and family. She pointed out the good Savage did throughout his life and how he could contribute to society.
“This is why I ask for mercy and leniency for a minimal sentence in your judgment of my son,” Rosemary Savage said.
Benjamin Savage also spoke – saying how sorry he is for his behavior that changed both families and the community of just over 1,000 people forever.
“I take full responsibility for my actions. That’s why I plead guilty,” Benjamin Savage said. “I apologize and ask for forgiveness from Charlie’s family and his friends. … If there was some way I could bring him back, I would.”
While the prosecution and defense struggled over two polygraph examinations to determine if Savage fully confessed, Thompson said it did not influence the sentence and that Savage “had a lot of time” to think about what he did before committing the crime.
McBride’s sisters, Emily King and Mari McBride, tell EastIdahoNews.com they will work to ensure their brother’s memory remains as they now care for his son. They are pleased with the outcome of the sentencing.
“I’m glad it’s 22 years fixed so he can’t harm anybody,” McBride told EastIdahoNews.com “He has to sit there for 22 years and think about what he’s done.”
Other family members and friends of McBride were not happy with the sentence. Following the hearing, McBride’s aunt confronted Oleson and said it was “shameful” that the attorney did not recuse himself since he defended Savage in 2017. The concern also came up in earlier proceedings where Magistrate Judge James Barrett denied a motion to disqualify him as a prosecutor.
Savage will remain in the Custer County Jail until the Idaho Department of Correction transfers him to prison. He will also have to pay court costs and $5,000 in victim’s relief to McBride’s son.