Trial panel declines to convict Mrs. Bender for husband’s death

A trial court Monday gave the benefit of the doubt to the wife of John Félix Bender. The woman, Ann Patton, was set free because judges said that there was not sufficient evidence that she had killed her husband, a multi-millionaire.

The defense maintained that his death Jan. 8, 2010 in the five-story 8,000-square-foot glass-walled showplace home was suicide.

Prosecutors most certainly will appeal, and the appellate panel could confirm the verdict or order a new trial. The full verdict will not be available until Friday.

Bender earned in excess of $600 million with a mathematical approach to Wall Street investing. He ran several arbitrage funds before suffering a stroke in 2000, according to online sources.

Mrs. Bender, who is a Brazilian naturalized as a U.S. citizen, was detained shortly after the death. They lived on the 5,000-acre Refugio de Vida Silvestre Boracayán in La Floridad de Barú de Peréz Zeledon.Mrs. Bender testified a week ago and said that the death was a suicide. Judicial investigators spent the week trying to show that evidence at the scene contradicted this possibility. Investigators talked about the position of the body, the location of the entry wound and other details. But they lacked a motive and they lacked clear evidence that Mrs. Bender fired the shot.

The trial ran through Friday and saw testimony from 25 witnesses in the Tribunal Penal de Pérez Zeledón. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 25 years. When the trial finished, some observers expected Monday’s verdict because of the gaps in the prosecution case.

Bender was said to be bipolar and had attempted suicide once before.

Mrs. Patton still faces a case relating to the large quantity of jewelry found in the home. Although they were not searching for jewelry, agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization confiscated boxes of jewels. The material includes loose stones and fully produced bracelets and watches. The jewels may be unrelated to the murder investigation, but agents said at the time that import taxes may not have been paid on the material.

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