GLADSTONE, Ore. — A former Gladstone police sergeant had his wife killed because he was afraid he could lose his job if she disclosed domestic abuse allegations, and he knew he would benefit financially from her death, Clackamas County prosecutors said Wednesday.
Lynn Benton has been charged with aggravated murder, solicitation to commit aggravated murder, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and attempted murder in connection with the death of Debbie Higbee Benton, who was found dead in her beauty salon in May 2011.
The former sergeant is accused of conspiring with his friend Susan Campbell and her son, Jason Jaynes, to kill Higbee Benton, and offering them $2,000 in exchange, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (https://goo.gl/cxac72).
Prosecutors said Benton helped Campbell get a cleaning job in the salon and made a plan for her to shoot Higbee Benton there and take cash to make it look like a robbery.
Instead, Campbell panicked after shooting her once and she didn’t die, prosecutors said. Campbell called Benton at the police department and fled. Benton and Jaynes then went to the salon and the sergeant watched as Jaynes beat and strangled Higbee Benton, police and court documents said.
Married in 2010, the couple had problems after Benton, who was born a female, had begun transitioning to male. Higbee Benton was initially supportive of his decision, but that changed when Benton started becoming more aggressive and violent toward her, Senior Deputy District Attorney John Wentworth said.
Benton moved out of their home in April 2011 and told investigators he hadn’t seen his wife in the two weeks before her death.
Defense lawyers contend the case lacks trustworthy information and hinges on the words of an informant with a violent criminal history who is looking at a possible 20-year sentence in the case.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com