If online comments are any indication, Ann Bender has captured the sympathy of Costa Ricans. Ms. Bender is the U.S. citizen a judicial panel acquitted Monday in the death of her multi-millionaire husband, John, who died from a gunshot wound Jan, 8, 2010.
Leave the woman in peace, said one person who posted below the early report of the acquittal in La Nación.
“I am happy for Ann. She was innocent since the beginning,” said another.
“Why don’t prosecutors go after the corrupt politicians the way they have after this woman,” asked another poster.
The comments echoed those in the expat community where a third murder trial was considered excessive. More troubling is the statement by a prosecutor at the beginning of the trial that if the woman is acquitted he would appeal again to seek a fourth trial.
Usually those who appeal court cases need to have some concrete reason, but a poster addressed this possibility, too.
“What is this persecution by the prosecutor. Three trials have passed and two have said she is innocent,” said the fourth poster, adding that prosecutors should respect the results even if they do not like the verdict.
Mrs. Bender made several appearances on Costa Rica television when she testified in Spanish. She looked frail but did not appear deceptive.
She was the only other person in the room with her U.S. citizen husband when he died. She said he took his own life even as she tried to stop him. Prosecutors claimed she killed him although they never came up with a motive.
Agents claimed at the time there were inconsistencies in the death scene that led them to characterize the case as a murder. Subsequent testimony showed that the investigation lacked professionalism.
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 27, 2014, 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 reviewed the case. An appeals court reversed the conviction, and the trial that ended Monday was held.
The case attracted international attention. CBS news hired a husband and wife team of forensic experts who raised serious doubt about the investigation and the evidence that was used to convict the woman. They said that the testimony of Ms. Patton was plausible.
A U.S. television crew was present for the latest trial.