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Convicted killer of 85-year-old man sentenced to life in prison

Sally Mixer stood in Merced Superior Court on Thursday, telling Judge Carol Ash about how she misses the gentle hugs from her late husband Robert — and regrets that she never said “goodbye.”

Meanwhile, the man who brutally beat her husband with a tire iron and strangled him to death sat expressionless a few feet away from her, occasionally bowing his head. “He should be made to pay for what he did to an innocent man,” said Mixer, 77, her voice shaking as she read from a statement.

Mixer was one of several people who spoke during a sentencing hearing for her husband’s killer, Benjamin Crosby.

The 26-year-old Olympia, Wash. native was convicted by a Merced County jury earlier this year of killing 85-year-old Robert Mixer during a robbery in a Santa Nella motel room on Sept. 8, 2005.

Ash sentenced Crosby to the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Dressed in a striped orange jailhouse jumpsuit, Crosby showed no emotion as Ash read the sentence. Ash, however, began to cry before the sentence was read, her voice cracking, saying the trial was extremely sad.

Ash also told 50-year-old Patrick Crosby, the killer’s father, that she felt sorry for him and his wife, who were present throughout much of the trial. “It’s just a terrible tragedy,” Ash said.

Still, Ash spoke sternly toward Benjamin Crosby, saying the evidence was overwhelming and that she hopes he does not “waste” his time in prison. “I really don’t know why you did what you did,” Ash said. “The evidence shows it was calculated.”

Crosby’s defense attorney Wayne Eisenhart had argued during the trial that his client was insane when he committed the crime, saying that he suffered from bipolar I disorder — a severe mental disorder that includes a wide range of symptoms, such as depression, grandiose delusions, manic behavior and racing thoughts.

The jury, however, didn’t buy the defense’s argument and found Crosby sane.

Prior to his sentencing, Crosby spoke to the victim’s family in court, saying that he was “truly sorry” for killing Mixer. “The remorse will always be with me,” Crosby said, adding that he believed that life in prison was “too good for him” and that he deserved the maximum punishment.

Still, Crosby said he did believe that he was “truly insane” when he committed the killing. “I guess I didn’t provide enough proof,” he said.

Mixer’s daughter Carol Mixer Caddes, 62, said even though Crosby apologized to their family, he still has not owned up to what he did. Caddes mentioned how Crosby had previously tried to escape from jail.

Crosby also told investigators that he had been distressed by numerous factors before the killing, such as getting fired from his job and being dumped by his girlfriend. “Those are stressors that we all face,” Caddes said. “Somehow he decided that the laws didn’t apply to him.”

The killer’s father, Patrick Crosby, said his family has also been affected by Mixer’s death, calling it a total “waste on both sides.”

While his son’s single act has led to him being characterized as “a monster,” Crosby said he still believes his son was truly insane. “That’s not the Ben we grew up with. We’re not sure why or what happened,” Crosby said. “I do believe that he suffers from a disease. And we didn’t see it soon enough to identify it.”

In the days before he killed Mixer, Crosby drove from Washington in a stolen car, after pouring gasoline throughout a home he was renting and setting it on fire. He stopped in Santa Nella after running out of money and gas, according to Merced County Sheriff’s investigators.

Investigators said Crosby knocked on Mixer’s motel room door as a ruse, telling him that his car lights were left on. Crosby then attacked Mixer when he returned to the room, striking him between 20 and 30 times with a tire iron.

Inside the motel room, Crosby said he put a plastic bag around Mixer’s head, trying to stop him from breathing. He then used a strap from Mixer's glasses to wrap around the victim's neck until he was dead. Afterward, he took Mixer's wallet and suitcase and drove away in the victim's 2004 Honda Civic.

Crosby was arrested later by California Highway Patrol officers in Riverside County, following a traffic accident in the victim’s car.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or