As a child actor, Mark Everett scored bit parts in the movies “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and “Stand and Deliver,” and his future seemed bright.
He worked steadily as an actor in the 1980s, from ages 9 to 18. Though he never had a starring role, he appeared in commercials, movies and television shows like “Trapper John M.D.” and “Highway to Heaven.”
But as he got older, the rising star's career burned out. Everett — whose real name is Manuel Benitez — moved to Miami and, according to the FBI, sold drugs to supplement the money he made doing odd jobs.
He would come to play a real-life role far bigger and more notorious than any of his on-screen personas: a fugitive wanted for killing his girlfriend and abducting their son.
In 1996, Benitez, 26, met Stephanie Spears, and he won her over with his sociable, grandiose way. But the man Stephanie and her family knew was Mark Everett. They didn't know Benitez, or his drug-dealing past.
Benitez “honed his acting skills into fooling people about what he can and cannot do,” said FBI Special Agent Scott Garriola, the agent in Los Angeles working on his case. He said Benitez professed to speak several languages, including Cantonese, German, Spanish and French.
Benitez, by this point living in Hawthorne, Calif., and Spears moved in together, and in November 2001 they welcomed son Benjamin Everett into the world.
But after eight years together the relationship was on the rocks. On June 21, 2004, Father’s Day, Spears had had enough. She told Benitez she wanted to break up, and a heated argument ensued.
Authorities say Benitez became enraged and brutally beat Spears over the head with a dumbbell, killing her. He then allegedly fled their home with their 3-year-old son.
He is wanted on federal charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and murder.
The FBI is also searching for Benitez’s mother, Elizabeth Velasco, who is believed to be traveling with her son. Garriola described them as an “odd couple” — a mother with multiple health problems and a fugitive son on the run.
The alleged murder of Stephanie Spears wasn’t Benitez’s first brush with the law. In 2000, he was arrested on drug charges, and in a chilling 2003 incident, he was arrested for hiding loaded weapons underneath his son's stroller – while the 2-year old was in the seat.
Benitez struggled with a police officer who, in the course of making a routine stop, discovered guns under the stroller seat.
America’s Most Wanted reported that Benitez told detectives that he “grabbed the wrong bag by mistake.”
“But for a citizen passing by who saw the officer struggling, who knows what would have happened?” said Garriola.
Benitez was convicted on the charge of possessing concealed and illegally loaded firearms, and was sentenced to probation.
There have been no confirmed sightings of Benitez since Spears' slaying, but in December 2004 locals placed him and Velasco in the area of Medford, Ore., some 700 miles from where he allegedly murdered Spears.
Medford police Sergeant Tim Doney told the Mail Tribune, a southern Oregon newspaper, that “we’re assuming that he fled with the child, although the child has not been seen up here.”
Garriola said Benitez’s mother had connections in the Oregon area, but he believes that they have fled the country by now, most likely to a Spanish-speaking country like Mexico or Cuba, where Velasco is known to have ties.
Garriola said Benjamin Everett, now 8 years old, is in danger “by the mere fact that he’s with someone as unstable as Benitez,” who is known to live in squalor and unsanitary conditions, having populated trailers and motel rooms covered with dirt and feces.
Benitez's other aliases include Manuel Velasco, Manuele DeVelasco, Michael Evers and Mike Evers. He is described as a white Hispanic male with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 39 years old, weighs between 190 to 220 pounds and stands 5'10" to 6'2" high. He is considered armed and dangerous.
Benjamin Everett was 3 years old, 4-feet tall, and 40 pounds when he was taken. He is a bi-racial child with brown hair and brown eyes.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to Benitez’s arrest. Anyone with information can call a local FBI office or the American embassy, or call a direct line to the FBI Bureau in Los Angeles, 1 (888) CANT- HIDE.