A 41-year-old West Glacier man is the suspect in the murder of a TV personality in Whitefish on Thursday, March 7.
According to Whitefish police chief Bill Dial, Wayne Bengtson showed up at a residence on River Lakes Parkway in Whitefish about 10:00 p.m. and shot Gregory Rodriguez, a visitor from Texas, four times at close range with a .44-caliber handgun. Bengtson then brutally beat his wife and took their two-year-old son to West Glacier.
Rodriguez, of Sugar Land, Texas, was an avid outdoorsman, hunting consultant, award-winning outdoor writer and marksmanship instructor who appeared on the outdoor TV show “Rifleman’s Journal.” He was the founder and president of Global Adventure Outfitters and had traveled to 21 countries on six continents, where he bagged 140 species of animals. He was married and had two children.
Rodriguez had just arrived in the Flathead for business and was visiting Bengtson’s wife, Lindsey, at her mother’s home in Whitefish while her mother was out of town. Lindsey worked for Proof Research in Columbia Falls, which makes expensive, high-end hunting rifles, and Rodriguez had done some work for Proof Research.
Dial said the two had met at a trade show and were talking business over a glass of wine when Wayne Bengtson entered the house. Bengtson yelled some vulgarities and then shot Rodriguez in the kitchen. The shots hit Rodriguez’s torso, arm, shoulder and right leg. Rodriguez died almost instantly and was not armed, Dial said.
Following the shooting, Bengtson attacked and brutally beat his wife, inflicting injuries consistent with being pistol whipped, Dial said. He then fled the scene with his son, who was sleeping downstairs during the shooting. Bengtson dropped off his son unharmed at a relative’s house in Columbia Heights before driving to his home off of Old Highway 2 East in West Glacier.
Flathead County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Bengtson’s West Glacier home, where they found his truck parked in the driveway, Dial reported. The sheriff office’s SWAT team responded and attempted to contact Bengtson without success.
Bengtson was found early the next morning dead inside the house, the victim of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Alcohol was reportedly not a factor in the incident, Dial said, and Bengtson did not have a criminal record.
Bengtson worked with Glacier National Park’s road crew and operated a snowplow. He came from a large family that has lived in the West Glacier area for generations. Many of the family members have worked at the Park or in the surrounding tourist-related businesses.
Dial said the nature of the relationship between Rodriguez and Lindsey Bengtson appeared to be business-related. Lindsey, who was treated at North Valley Hospital and released, told police she and her husband had been having arguments but nothing indicating potential violence. They were not estranged, and child protective services will intervene to make sure the boy and his mother are reunited appropriately, Dial said.
The day after the shooting, Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh met with Flathead County economic leaders at Proof Research. That meeting was closed to media.