TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – 16 formal charges have been filed against a Vigo County man who police say knowingly spread HIV.
A warrant was served by Indiana State Police to 31-year-old Isiah C. Benford on Monday at 11:13 AM.
Court documents show Benford had been tested in 2011 and tested positive for HIV. Records say he signed a ‘notice to warn’. This would require him to comply with the Indiana code which states it is a felony to not tell your sexual partners you have HIV — called a ‘Duty to Warn.’
“At a time of diagnosis an individual signs this paper and they are held to it, it helps us act as a deterrent for people engaging in high risk behavior,” Joni Wise with the Vigo County Health Department said in April. “The state department of health notified us last year of an individual in Vigo County that as the years progressed that we have found out has infected 8 people with HIV, one with AIDS.”
Records show on August 6, 2014, a search warrant was conducted at the Monroe County Health Department in search of health and medical records of Benford. Police say the search recovered documents with three entries on September 12, 2003 including an ‘assigned medical record number indicating HIV testing had been performed.”
Those documents show a positive testing of HIV for Benford before he was tested in 2011.
Monday’s court documents show Benford has been charged with Aggravated Battery, Battery by Bodily Fluid/Waste [if person knew/failed to know bodily/fluid waste infected with hepatitis, tuberculosis or HIV], Battery Resulting in Bodily Injury, Failure of Carrier of AIDS, HIV, Hep B to Warn Person at Risk, Battery by Body Waste and Failure to Comply With ‘Duty to Warn.’
“Definitely unusual,” Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt says at a press conference. “In my nine years I have never seen anything quite like this.”
Start of Investigation
Indiana State Police say they arrested Benford for robbery on April 26, 2014. They say they began their investigation alongside the Vigo County Prosecutor on May 15, 2014.
ISP says during their investigation, they interviewed 11 females who reported they had sexual relations with Benford. They say these hese ‘credible and consistent’ partners told ISP that Benford did not warn them of his HIV diagnosis.
[Partner A] says she was with Benford from 2012 – 2014. Benford never told [Partner A] of his health status before initiating a sexual relationship. Court documents say approximately three months in, during an argument, the woman says Benford told her that ‘she was stuck with him’ because he has HIV and no one would want her.
That partner was diagnosed in April of 2014 with HIV. “We want to make sure we bring justice for everyone and anyone who could have been a victim,” Modesitt continues.
Court documents show a [Partner B] was with Benford from 2008 – 2012. “Benford denied to [Partner B] that he had HIV and that he told her friends that she had HIV,” the documents say.
Records say that partner tested negative for HIV in May of 2014 but the court documents show that [Partner B] is “fearful that she may still be found to have HIV as a result of her contact with Benford.”
[Partner C] was with Benford from 2006 – 2008. During this relation with Benford, he told [Partner C] that he did not have any Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). But as a result of this investigation, [Partner C] was tested for HIV in 2014 and tested negative.
Documents show Benford was with a [Partner D] from 2003 – 2008. “Benford never told Partner D of his HIV status. Partner D later became ill and was diagnosed with HIV in 2010. [Partner D] believes she contracted HIV from Benford,” court documents say.
Officials say they believe Benford hid his HIV diagnosis from his sexual partners and/or taunted them with it.
The Vigo County Health Department says in April they reported nine identified female partners have tested positive with HIV and one unidentified female partner has tested positive for AIDS. “All nine of these women are epidemiologically linked to Isiah Benford,” court documents say.
Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt says in a press conference Monday afternoon he hopes more victims will come forward.
“This is a sensitive subject anyway. And so, what you run in to, even though everyone we talked to was cooperative, it’s just that some people – obviously the ones we file the charges on – were willing and understand that they may have to appear in court and they would have to appear in a public form and those type of things. Not everyone, obviously would want to do that, or would be willing to do that under the circumstances,” Modesitt explains.
Benford is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
Indiana State Police is also urging those who believe they may have had sexual contact with Benford between September 11, 2003 and April 26, 2014 and want to seek testing can contact Positive Link, an IU Health program at 812-353-9150 or the Vigo County Health Department Clinic at 812-462-3431.
Anyone who believes they are a victim of this crime or have relevant information to these crimes is urged to contact ISP Detective Sam Stearley at 765-653-4114.