CBS News promises a full report on the John Bender murder case in its fall television season.
The television network has been following closely the Costa Rican case and the acquittal and subsequent conviction of Bender’s wife, Ann.
The network just reported that a husband and wife team of forensic experts have raised serious doubt about the investigation and the evidence that was used to convict the woman.
Bender, a multi-millionaire and a U.S. citizen, died Jan, 8, 2010, from a single gunshot wound to the head, and investigators charged his wife, also a U.S. citizen. Agents claimed at the time there were inconsistencies in the death scene that led them to characterize the case as a murder.
The Benders lived at a 5,000-acre private wildlife refuge in La Florida de Barú de Pérez Zeledón in a five-story 8,000-square-foot glass-walled showplace home.
A trial court Jan. 21, 2013, gave the benefit of the doubt to Mrs. Bender. She was set free because judges said that there was not sufficient evidence that she had killed her husband.
Bender was said to be bipolar and had attempted suicide once before. However, prosecutors appealed the decision.
In May a new trial panel in Peréz Zeledón convicted the woman and imposed a sentence of 22 years and remanded her to prison for nine months until a higher court reviews the case. An appeal has not been resolved.
In the Costa Rica judicial system, an acquittal on a criminal charge is not final. Neither is a
conviction. There are many ways to appeal.
The case hinges on the testimony of Mrs. Bender and the conclusions reached by investigators after piecing together the death.
Mrs. Bender said that her husband fired the fatal shot into his head while she struggled to prevent him from doing so.
CBS News said that its “48 Hours” television show hired Richard and Selma Eikelenboom, the experts, to review the case and conduct tests at the couple’s mansion. The pair concluded that the evidence supports Mrs. Bender’s account of the death more than it supports the prosecutor’s case.
At no point have prosecutors come up with a motive as to why Mrs. Bender would kill her husband. She also suffers from depression.
Prosecutors based much of their case on the location where the bullet entered the head and that this would have been difficult for a left-handed person.
Those close to the case note that Bender could use both hands well and that there is a photo showing him wearing a pistol holster on his right side. They also question the testimony of Gretchen Flores Sandí, a medical examiner, and said that she changed her testimony between the two trials. The transcript of the second trial shows that Dr. Flores relied on word of mouths from someone she does not remember to conclude that Bender was left-handed.
These are points that most likely figure in the appeal.
So, too, may be some of the issues raised by the CBS experts. They said that investigators also failed to photograph the scene correctly, test the blood stains on the bed sheets or even fingerprint the gun.