MALIBU — Authorities have confirmed that the son of Pepperdine University president Andrew K. Benton was the last known person to see 25-year-old graphic designer Katie Wilkins alive.

Wilkins’ body was discovered by her brother in the garage of her parents’ home in east Malibu April 28, and her car was missing.

Lt. Tim O’Quinn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau said Wednesday that the last person known to have seen Wilkins alive was 27-year-old Christopher Benton.

The case has been ruled as non-suspicious and toxicology results are currently pending at the L.A. County Office of Coroner’s Office to determine cause of death. O’Quinn said the cause of death was “probably an [drug] overdose.”

Benton has retained an attorney and has not spoken to authorities, O’Quinn said. Since Wilkins’ death has been ruled non-suspicious, Benton is not currently considered a suspect.

Rob Wilkins, the father of Katie Wilkins, told The Malibu Times last week he had unsuccessfully tried to contact Benton.

Pepperdine University issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon in an e-mail from spokesman Jerry Derloshon:

“The university regards this as a personal matter. The event occurred off campus and is unrelated to the university. Law enforcement’s investigation is still on-going. The facts in this terribly sad case will develop over time, but the result will be the same: a young woman lost her life, and her family lost a daughter and a sister. It is tragic for all involved.”

Security cameras showed Wilkins picking up Benton at the McDonald’s restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway at 8:33 p.m. on the night of Fri., April 27, O’Quinn said. The pair had exchanged text messages earlier that evening and Benton left a voicemail on Wilkins’ phone explaining that he did not have a car and needed a ride. The two had apparently been friends in the past but had lost touch before reconnecting about a week prior to Wilkins’ death.

“[T]here may have been some narcotics activity between them in the past, from what I’m being told,” O’Quinn said. He had been told in the course of his investigation that Wilkins had had substance abuse issues in the past, but that she “had been doing pretty well for the last year.”

Other media outlets have reported that Wilkins was staying at her parents home at 23400 Moon Shadow Dr. for the weekend and that they were out of town.

In a series of comments posted on the website, a man identifying himself as Steve Wilkins said his sister had had substance abuse issues in the past with cocaine and heroin.

The person wrote at 9:23 p.m. Sunday, “At this time I believe Katie died of a heroin overdose, the investigation revealed strong indications of this.” They also wrote the initial sheriff’s investigation “revealed strong indications that the injection was not self administered.”

The person also wrote on the website that Katie Wilkins’ keys were missing from the home as well as her vehicle, a silver 1998 BMW Z3, and that the sheriff’s investigation found no evidence of drug paraphernalia at the home.

O’Quinn told The Malibu Times Wednesday afternoon that “the car appears to have been located. I just got a call a little bit ago.”

The car was being held for fingerprints at a tow yard, O’Quinn said, and he did not know what condition the car was in at that point.

O’Quinn said the only connection Benton has with the case is the text messages he exchanged with Wilkins and the security camera at McDonald’s.

“That’s the only connection I can put him with her at that time,” O’Quinn said. “I mean, the logical speculation is that he was with her when she died and that he took the car, but I don’t have any confirmation of that.”

Adkisson is the associated editor of the Malibu Times. This article first appeared in that publication.

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