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One year after Phoenix man was left dead in the desert, his friends wait for answers

For the last year, the loved ones of Benjamin Anderson have been waiting for answers after his body was found in the desert north of Phoenix and his car burned out.

PHOENIX — Benjamin Anderson was no stranger to Daniel Stahoviak and Susan Dzbanko. 

"We knew everything he wore, what his favorite movies were," Stahoviak said. 

The friends even recognized something off in his home when the 41-year-old from Central Phoenix went missing on Dec. 31, 2021. 

"We know that level of granular detail about him because we were his best friend, and he was our best friend," Dzbanko said. "Putting the pieces together, trying to also in our own minds, I think to figure out what happened, leading up to the moment where he left his house with in some haste, right? The towel was left not hanging up, which is not like him, he was a very tidy person." 

Stahoviak and Dzbanko were friends with Anderson for decades and describe Anderson as funny, extroverted, and with a heart for helping others. 

"Sometimes it'd be like, 'You need to buy a new pair of socks.' And I'm like, 'Come on, just buy a pair of socks. It's only $6 at Costco'," Stahoviak said. "But he wouldn't. He would rather spend money on helping others." 

Just as well as the friends knew Anderson, they say, Anderson knew no stranger. 

"He always made you feel like you were the center of the universe," Dzbanko said. "And literally, no matter who he met, you were instantly his friend." 

What friends and loved ones don't know, and still lingers a year after his death, is all that happened on New Year's Eve 2021. 

"This year has been really hard," Dzbanko said. 

"We're still wondering what happened a year later," Stahoviak said. 

That day, Stahoviak said Anderson called to cancel brunch plans on short notice. 

That afternoon, 911 calls released through a record request from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to the friends and shared with 12News, show someone called regarding a body or a mannequin on fire near I-17 and Table Mesa Road. 

"I'm not sure if it's a body or a mannequin," the caller tells the dispatcher. "But it looks like a body to me."

That body would be confirmed days later by MCSO to be Anderson. 

"Finding out very specific details of what was done to him, and how gruesome it was and how evil it was that somebody could treat him that way, and just leave him in the desert," Stahoviak said. "To hear that, I think that that was probably the hardest part." 

Credit: 12News

Later on Dec. 31, 2021, when friends found it odd Anderson hadn't been in contact with anyone, they started searching for him, not knowing he was already dead. 

A group of Anderson's friends even tracked down his car to a parking garage near I-17 and Dunlap. 

"We just found the car and it's not our friend that's in the car," one friend is heard telling the Phoenix Police dispatcher in a 911 recording shared with 12News by Stahoviak. 

Hours later, the car was found burned out in a nearby parking lot. 

To this day, no arrests have been made by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. 

"I think somebody knows something," Stahoviak said. 

Anderson's friends have raised $25,000 as a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Anyone with information can contact Silent Witness anonymously at 480-Witness.

"It's never too late to do the right thing," Dzbanko said. 

The friends wait with hope that they will know what happened someday, believing investigators are still working on the case. 

"Whoever did this, whether it was one person or multiple people, that they're held accountable because they should be," Dzbanko said. "They should not be breathing the same air as we breathe, right? For what they did to him."

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