COSTA RICA JOURNAL – Ann Maxin Patton’s conviction by a Costa Rican court for murdering her husband, U.S. financier John Bender, in 2010 is being scrutinized by CBS’s “48 hours”.

John and Ann on their wedding day in 1999. They'd met through a mutual friend a year earlier and bonded over all they had in common, including manic depression.
John and Ann on their wedding day in 1999. They’d met through a mutual friend a year earlier and bonded over all they had in common, including manic depression.

The popular U.S. television show hired renowned forensics experts, Richard and Selma Eikelenboom, who have raised serious questions about the  investigation by Costa Rica authorities and the evidence against Ann.

In the story published Friday, CBS, tells the story of Ann and John’s arrival in Costa Rica ten years earlier, their determination to use the almost US$100 million dollar fortune amassed by John to benefit the world by startiung a wildlife refuge on a 5,000 acres and the building of the unsual and huge mountain side top home near Perez Zeledon, some two hours south of San José.


Q Reports on the case:


John’s death from a gunshot to the head was on January 8, 2010. Ann was tried and convicted by a Costa Rican court for murder of her husband.

However, the CBS report questions the incident. Did John Bender kill himself? Did he die by accident? Or did his wife murder him in cold blood?

This what the CBS report has to say about the couple:

“Like a cross between an art museum and the villain’s lair in a James Bond movie, the roughly 50,000 square foot conical concrete and granite structure had no windows or walls. The wildlife sanctuary surrounding it became a sanctuary for the Benders too – a refuge from society, full of exotic animals, waterfalls and wildflowers.

They’d always been a bit eccentric – and Ann says they’d been madly in love since the moment a friend introduced them in Virginia in 1998. What made the match so perfect, she remembers, was a feeling of shared experience – and part of what they shared was an unfortunate problem. Both Ann and John had spent years battling mood swings and depression.

They saw each other – and Costa Rica – as a chance to make a new start.

But paradise proved elusive. Even though the Benders had brought jobs, running water and electricity to a very rural part of Costa Rica, some of the locals resented them at first. Then there was real trouble.

Ann says they’d been living in the jungle only about a year when, in April 2001, an unmarked car pulled them over on a mountain road. They were taken at gunpoint by men claiming to be police and detained for 6 hours. Only then did the reason become clear, when Costa Rican authorities served John with legal papers relating to a lawsuit from his investing days.

The incident rattled both the Benders, and a break-in at the property soon afterward only made matters worse. Afraid that being wealthy foreigners had made them targets, they bought guns and hired private security.

Ann says the stress upset her so much that she eventually stopped eating, though she still needed medication much of the time to combat mood swings and joint pain from Lyme disease. And she says the situation took an even greater toll on her husband, who grew steadily more depressed.

By the winter of 2009, John Bender was talking about suicide every day.

It was shortly after midnight on January 8, 2010 when she says life simply became too much for John to bear. She’d been asleep when she felt him get into bed, and opened her eyes to see him pointing a gun at his head. She lunged at him, she told us in an interview, trying to wrestle the pistol away and – though she never actually touched the gun – it went off in the struggle that ensued.

They saw each other – and Costa Rica – as a chance to make a new start.”

 

To help answer that questions for “48 Hours” hire the Eikelenbooms, a married forensics team known around the world for crime scene analysis. “In June, we furnished them with court documents and police photos for review at their Colorado lab. And we brought them to Costa Rica to conduct tests and reconstruct the shooting in the room where John Bender died,” says the report.

After more than a month of review, the Eikelenbooms say they identified serious flaws in the initial investigation by Costa Rica authorities. They say that the documents suggest authorities assumed from the start that Bender had been murdered – and set out to prove it. “Investigators also failed to photograph the scene correctly, test the blood stains on the bed sheets or even fingerprint the gun,” they said.

And according to the Eikelenbooms, Costa Rica investigators also misinterpreted the evidence they did collect. Contrary to the prosecutor’s theory, they told us the gunshot wound at the back right of John’s head could easily have been self-inflicted. His eyes could have been open at the time of the shot even though they were closed when he was found.

The report says that the Eikelenbooms concluded the bulk of the evidence from the scene of the shooting supports Ann Bender’s story much more closely than the theory of the prosecutor at trial.

“48 Hours” says it will have a “full investigation” in the fall on a new season.


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