A Clackamas County jury has found former Gladstone police sergeant Lynn Benton guilty in the 2011 murder of his estranged wife, Debbie Higbee-Benton.
A jury found Benton, 54, guilty on all counts against him Friday, including charges of aggravated murder and criminal conspiracy.
Benton and Higbee-Benton had been married for many years before Benton transitioned from a woman to a man, leading to their estrangement.
Higbee-Benton was found dead in her hair salon on May 29, 2011, after she did not appear at a friend’s birthday party. People at the event then met Benton at the salon where the victim was found.
Prosecutors argued that Benton was abusive and wanted to silence Higbee-Benton from making a domestic violence claim that could end his law enforcement career.
They also said Benton had hired two people, Susan Campbell and her son Jason Jaynes, to kill his estranged wife. Campbell had pleaded guilty to aggravated attempted murder charges in 2012 as part of a plea deal, but a judge vacated that plea in September.
Prosecutors maintain that Benton interfered in a rape investigation involving Jaynes in 1999, and Jaynes was involved in the killing of Higbee-Benton as a way to repay that earlier favor. Jaynes is currently in prison on a 15-year sentence on charges stemming from sex crimes involving underage girls.
Benton’s defense argued that the state’s case does not contain solid evidence, and that it was built on testimony from Travis Layman, a jailhouse informant who prosecutors claim heard Benton confess to the killing. Defense attorneys called him unreliable, even bringing another inmate to the stand who testified Layman “fabricated every word” of his story.
The sentencing phase for Benton is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
The city of Gladstone and the Gladstone Police Department released a statement about the case Friday. Our condolences and deepest sympathies go out to the family of Debbie Higbee and all those affected by this tragedy. Debbie was a beloved member of our community and missed by those who knew her. There are no winners in this case and these lives are forever altered.
We will continue to make the safety and well-being of the community of Gladstone our top priority. We are grateful for the support we've received and look forward to continuing the good work of building a strong community that our residents are proud to be part of.Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.