Lynn Benton murder case now with jury - KPTV - FOX 12

Lynn Benton murder case now with jury

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CLACKAMAS COUNTY, OR (KPTV) -

The murder case against former Gladstone Police Sergeant Lynn Benton is now in the hands of the jury.

Prosecutors and Benton’s defense team offered their closing arguments Friday, with the state claiming Benton hired people to kill his estranged wife Debbie Higbee-Benton in May 2011.

Benton was a woman at the time of Higbee-Benton’s death and had started the gender reassignment process. His wife was not in favor of that, however, and the couple separated.

Prosecutor Lew Burkhart said Benton also worried that Higbee-Benton would come forward with accusations of domestic violence that could damage his law enforcement career. Burkhart played a video of Benton talking about the issue during a police interview.

“The only time I really lost my temper, I kind of pinned her into a corner, just with my arm, and made her listen to me,” Benton was heard saying on the video.

Burkhart said the relationship between the two was failing, adding, “this was not a loving marriage, this was a marriage that was falling apart.”

Investigators said Benton paid his friend Susan Campbell $2,000 to shoot and kill Higbee-Benton in her Gladstone hair salon. But after one gunshot to the back, officials said Higbee-Benton was still alive.

That is when prosecutors claim Campbell’s son, Jason Jaynes, came in to help finish the job, adding that when Benton was called to the salon the night of the murder he did not try to revive his estranged wife despite his CPR training.

“He already knew that Debbie was dead because he was there and part of the beating and strangulation that put Debbie out of her misery,” Burkhart said in his closing.

Benton’s defense lawyer Patrick Sweeney said his client's inaction did not prove anything. though.

“He didn’t perform CPR, so he must be guilty? He must be guilty. That’s a perspective," Sweeny said. "That’s speculation, not credible, viable evidence.”

Sweeney spent the day discrediting the state’s evidence, including testimony from jailhouse informant Travis Layman, who the defense contended made up stories to get a shorter sentence.

Sweeney also pointed to mistakes made by the medical examiner, who initially said Higbee-Benton died of natural causes and then cleared the scene. He also noted that there is no DNA linking Benton to the murder, questioning the procedures used in the initial investigation.

“Can we, in a capital case, convict somebody where the beginning crime scene doesn’t have the integrity?," Sweeney asked jurors.

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