Guilty of first-degree kidnapping. Guilty of first-degree murder. A jury in Scott County took just about two hours Tuesday to return those verdicts in the trial of Roger Bentley, the man accused of assaulting and killing 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids. The girl’s body was found last March in an abandoned trailer in Johnson County.
Tina Trimble, a cousin of Jetseta, attended Bentley’s trial. Trimble choked back tears as she read a statement saying “Jetseta was a beautiful, loving child and is missed more than words can express. Our prayer as a family is that no one ever has to experience this again.” Jetseta’s aunt, Jenny Slight, says Bentley should be put to death. “If a dog bites a child, the dog is put to sleep,” Slight says. “What Roger Bentley has done to Jetseta is much worse than any animal.” Slight says she strongly believes in the death penalty for people who rape and kill children.
Under current state law, there’s a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for the convictions, but Jetseta’s aunt says she doesn’t think that’s enough. “If you kidnap a child, you get life in prison,” she says. “If you murder that child, you get life in prison. He’s not a cat. He doesn’t have nine lives.” The jury saw graphic color photos of the child’s body and the crime scene, and heard detailed, grisly testimony about the details of the case.
Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White says while the trial didn’t last long, it was a difficult one for all involved. He says looking at the girl’s picture had some impact on the jury. “Some of you who know me pretty well I’m sure could tell that when I was doing my opening statement Thursday morning, I had some trouble getting through it,” White says. But White says he was confident going in that he’d get the conviction.
White says he’s never had a case with this much evidence, including seven DNA matches. White says finding the child’s blood on the clothing Bentley wore and Bentley’s DNA the girl’s naked, dead body helped the prosecution establish a solid link between the crime and the man accused of committing it. The formality of imposing the manditory life prison sentence for the convictions against Bentley will be done February 17 at the Johnson County Courthouse.