Bustamante told University of Idaho he was bipolar

From the Associated Press

University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said the psychology professor who gunned down Katy Benoit of Boise and then took his own life two months ago had disclosed his disorder shortly after he was hired in 2007.

Ernesto Bustamante, 31, was found dead in his hotel room Aug. 23 with six guns and medications for bipolar disorder and severe anxiety.

Moscow police a day earlier had found the body of 22-year-old Benoit, who was shot nearly a dozen times outside her Moscow home.

Bustamante disclosed to the psychology department that he managed his mental illness with medication after starting his employment on Aug. 12, 2007, the university said in a timeline it released Wednesday.

“We, as an institution when we hire people, we’re not allowed to ask for medical conditions, or anything like that,” Nellis said at a news conference on the Moscow campus. “Bipolar is something that’s certainly treatable.”

As early as Bustamante’s first semester, three or four students went to psychology department chair Ken Locke to express concerns about his behavior, saying he was “flirtatious” and showed favoritism to students.

Bustamante, who is originally from Venezuela, was confronted about the complaints and told Locke that his interactions with a student who was also Hispanic had been misunderstood, the university said.

Benoit met Bustamante last fall when she took a psychology course with him. By the end of the semester, they were dating.

In December 2010, Bustamante met with administrators to discuss a complaint that an anonymous caller had put into a university hotline, saying Bustamante was having sexual relationships with students and had been abusive toward one of them. The student at the center of the abuse allegations was not Benoit and denied that Bustamante had exhibited improper behavior, refusing to file a complaint against him.

Bustamante denied any violations of university policy.

Benoit’s relationship with Bustamante ended in May, when he put a gun to her head and told her how he would use it to kill her. She told others he had threatened her with a gun twice before. That month, he informed Locke he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to a change in his medication.

Bustamante had been known to alternately refer to himself as a “psychopathic killer” and “the beast,” according to police. After the couple split, Benoit alerted school officials that she was becoming increasingly concerned for her safety and filed a sexual harassment complaint with the university on June 12.

Bustamante denied the allegations and filed his own complaint against her on July 8, claiming defamation of character. Bustamante resigned his position as assistant professor Aug. 19, and police say he was in the process of moving to New Jersey for another job.

The quickest way for the university to remove Bustamante from campus was for him to sign a separation agreement.

“I’m not sure the university had knowledge about his employment anywhere else,” said Nellis, who was also unsure whether administrators in the psychology department had been contacted by the New Jersey employer.

School officials had contact with Benoit more than a dozen times to discuss the situation and urge her to take safety precautions. The final meeting came Aug. 22, the first day of the fall 2011 semester and the same day police said Bustamante shot Benoit 11 times with a .45-caliber handgun outside her home.

Nellis announced Wednesday that the university would take action to bolster its consensual relationship policy and expand sexual harassment training.

“We’ve come together in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy,” Nellis said. “Going forward, we’ll be stronger and wiser.”

Media outlets were expected to receive Bustamante’s personnel documents Thursday.

A judge ordered the documents released Oct. 3 after the university and several media outlets petitioned the court to rule they were a matter of public record.

From the Associated Press

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