Skip to Content

Pool man charged in the killing of elderly Palm Desert woman, prosecutors say murder happened during attempted robbery

A Thousand Palms man pleaded not guilty in court Thursday, after he was charged with the homicide of a 93-year-old Palm Desert resident.

A felony settlement conference has been scheduled for December 20th. Benjamin Briones will remain in custody without bail.

Investigators said Briones, 59, killed Jean Grace Willrich in her home in late November.

The homicide happened on Tuesday, Nov 30 at 12:55 p.m. on the 77000 block of Michigan Drive inside the Palm Desert Country Club. Deputies found Willrich dead inside her home. Authorities said Willrich was found with "trauma consistent with a homicide".

According to the charging document, Willrich's murder was "for financial gain."

Court records obtained by News Channel 3 further outline the allegations against Briones. Investigators say Briones entered Willrich's Michigan Drive home on or about November 29 "with the intent to commit theft and a felony."

They say that Briones unlawfully signed a check to be drawn from Willrich's account in the amount of $7,650.

Alice McCormick-McLean, a resident of Palm Desert Country Club, said "she was glad" to hear a suspect in the case is charged.

She added, “a lot of us are resting easy" and "we just hope it never happens again. You know most of us in here we’re so grateful that they’re stepping up the police force. We do see, them."

Despite these developments, McCormick-McLean said she and others in her neighborhood still have questions about the case.

She said she and other residents in the neighborhood "were scrambling to figure out" what the exact cause of death was.

Briones was originally scheduled to be arraigned today, however, it was pushed back to Thursday morning. We'll have further updates on News Channel 3 at 5:00 and here on

Never miss an update: download the News Channel 3 News App here.

You can reach the newsroom through

On Friday, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department announced that a 59-year-old Thousand Palms man was in custody in connection with the murder. Authorities said he is a self-employed pool serviceman.

Jail records show that the man was arrested near the intersection of Bob Hope Drive and Frank Sinatra Drive in Rancho Mirage at approximately 6:00 p.m.

The man has not been charged at this time but was booked into the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio on first-degree murder charges.

If anyone has information regarding this investigation, they are encouraged to call Investigator Castaneda with Central Homicide Unit at 951-955-2777 or Investigator Chua of the Palm Desert Sheriff Station at 760-836-1600.

This was the second murder to happen inside the community within three weeks. At this time, investigators have not connected the two crimes.

On Nov. 11, 47-year-old Edward Snyder was shot and killed near Tennessee and Oklahoma avenues.

Check Out: After 2 murders, HOA board member calls on police: ‘We need a lot more’

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

KESQ News Team

Author Profile Photo

Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3


News Channel 3 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content