57-year-old homeless man found dead in his snow-covered vehicle: “He drank himself and froze to death”

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MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office is investigating the death of a homeless man found frozen in Oak Creek.

The medical examiner says this is a probable cold-weather death.

The 57-year-old man was found frozen in his snow-covered vehicle on Addison Lane near 5th Avenue in Oak Creek.

He was last seen alive on Monday, December 19th around 2:00 p.m. He was pronounced dead on Wednesday, December 21st around 10:15 a.m.

An autopsy will be conducted Thursday.

A close friend of Phillip Benham said the way he died is just as tragic as the way he lived.


"The family said that if he was going to die, it was going to be from alcohol," Mark Stephany said.

Stephany said his mother dated Benham for 19 years. They broke up in 2014, but stayed close. A former Navy Seal, Stephany said Benham was an alcoholic who, in recent years, struggled to hold down a job.

"Did the tough love thing.  Sent him to places to get help. Everyone refused him, so he stayed on the street in his truck," Stephany said.

Medical examiner: 57-year-old homeless man found frozen to death in his snow-covered vehicle

Benham sough shelter in his white Ford pickup truck -- living outside the South Milwaukee Pick 'n Save store.

"He was staying in the parking lot," Benham said.

That's where he lived until earlier this week, when he stayed with a woman in the Sunrise Shore mobile home community. Stephany said the woman kicked Benham out when he started drinking again.

He was found just one street away -- frozen in his snow-covered truck.

"He drank himself and froze to death," Stephany said.

Medical examiner: 57-year-old homeless man found frozen to death in his snow-covered vehicle

Stephany was called to ID the body.

"It didn`t look like him.  Someone who had aged 50 years overnight," Stephany said.

Stephany said Benham was found with a bottle frozen in his hand. He said Benham was a gentle giant with a caring heart, and he said he hopes his friend's death serves as a reminder to be patient and caring to the homeless.

"Check on your loved ones if they are out there," Stephany said.

FOX6 News was told Benham's family is in Washington state.