Friday, May 9, 2014

Benny's Restaurant Part 2

Benny's Restaurant at the time of the shooting
The front page of the Lorain Journal of Monday, July 25, 1966 summed up the sad story in a headline: Ben Hart Slain; Suspect Jailed.

According to the story written by Ron Royhab, Ben Hart was shot five times and killed in his own night club, Benny's, by a Sheffield Lake man over a bar bill.

Ben Hart's last words were, "Oh my God, he killed me. My wife and kids.."

After he was shot, his wife, Elaine ran to his side and stayed with him until the Lorain Rescue Squad took him to St. Joseph Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 2:30 a.m.

According to the article, one eyewitness explained that Hart had been acting strangely that night. The eyewitness said that Hart "dragged a man from the lounge into the bar area" and was slapping the man across the face with the front and back of his hand. Hart allegedly knocked the man against the juke box and the man didn't even try to fight back.

Then a gun barrel appeared and shots were fired. Apparently the fight started because the man wanted to pay his bill by check.

Mrs. Hart's version of the story was slightly different. She stated that the bartender had told her that the man didn't want to pay his bill, and she was asked by the bartender to intercede. She asked the customer to pay his bill, which was $19.02. The man went through his pockets, scattering papers all over and Mrs. Hart helped him pick them up. The man then produced a checkbook and Mrs. Hart filled out the check for him. When the check was brought back to him for signing, however, he refused and pushed Mrs. Hart. That's when she got her husband involved, with the result that the man produced a gun from his pocket and shot Hart.

The man ran out the front door, and was later arrested in Oberlin after his car went left of center. During his test for intoxication, he admitted that he just shot a man at Benny's in Lorain. He had a speedy arraignment on Sunday – the first ever on a Sunday in Lorain.

He later admitted that he was in the bar that night because he was separated from his wife and thought that she and her boyfriend would be there that night.

He eventually was allowed to plead guilty to a charge of first-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to one to twenty years in the Ohio Penitentiary.

Mrs. Hart kept the nightclub open for a few more years. It eventually closed, and later became the home of Tiffany's Steakhouse in the early 1970s.


Ken said...

Bedford Falls had a touch of Pottersville about it.

Dan Brady said...

At least Pottersville had a thriving entertainment district – and their library stayed open late!

LHS Blazer Man said...

Benny Hart's daughter Debbie was in my classes at LHS. I can remember her sadness at school in the days after her father died. I never knew the details until I read your blog. So much tragedy over so little.

BTW, who was the shooter?