Ann Maxine Patton Found Guilty of Husband’s Murder in Retrial

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Ann Maxine Patton, the U.S. woman who was accused of killing her wealthy husband, John Felix Bender while he slept in their sprawling estate in Baru, Perez Zeledon in 2010, was found guilty of murder yesterday after a retrial and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

The judgment was handed down at 3:20 p.m. yesterday by the criminal court in Perez Zeledon after a nearly two-week long retrial. The same court had acquitted Patton of the charges on January 21st after her first murder trial.

Patton was accused of shooting her husband in the head, and charged with first-degree murder. Patton, however, claimed her husband had committed suicide while the two were alone on the 4th floor of their mansion. She said she awoke to find her husband with the gun; when she tried to take it away from him, it fired.

On September 2nd, 2013, an appeals court agreed with prosecutors that evidence in the case was not properly considered during the first trial, which led to Patton’s acquittal on lack of evidence.

A three-judge panel called for a retrial based on the assertion that the judges in the original trial had ignored a number of discrepancies in the case – including the fact that Bender’s body was in a sleeping position, that earplugs were found in his ears, and that while Bender had no gunpowder residue on his hands, napkins found on the second floor of the house tested positive for the substance.

Deputy prosecutor for Perez Zeledon, Edgar Ramirez Villalobos expressed his satisfaction with yesterday’s guilty verdict, saying that justice was served.

Villalobos said evidence proved that it was impossible that Bender had shot himself.

Patton’s defense attorney said her client plans to appeal the verdict.

Background

Patton met her husband in the U.S. in March of 1998. Early in their relationship they found that they both suffered from bipolar disorder, according to Patton, which she said brought them closer and hastened their relationship.

Patton stated that when they got married, they decided to invest in an ecological project, and began to buy properties in Costa Rica.

In 2000, they moved to San Isidro de El General, and the year after that, they moved to Baru. They were awarded permanent residency in Costa Rica.

According to Patton, on April 2001, an armed group stopped them when they were traveling in a vehicle in Perez Zeledon, to inform them that her husband was being sued for $98 million in the United States. She said they decided to increase the security measures at their Baru estate after the encounter, and purchased several firearms.

She also stated that while living in Costa Rica, both her and her husband would travel to the United States to receive treatment for depression. Patton said that her husband expressed his wish to end his life on several occasions.

According to Patton, her husband committed suicide at 12:15 a.m. on January 8th, 2010, while the two were alone on the 4th floor of their mansion. She said she awoke to find her husband with the gun; when she tried to take it away from him, it fired.

Patton was accused of shooting her husband in the head, and charged with first-degree murder. Patton, however, claimed her husband committed suicide while the two were alone on the 4th floor of their mansion. She said she awoke to find her husband with the gun; when she tried to take it away from him, it fired.

Addressing the judge during her first trial trial, Patton said, “He told me that he was tired of living such a hard life with all that he had gone through, he said he was afraid of hurting someone, and that he believed that I was safer without him.”

Initially, police believed Patton’s account of the events, but as the investigation got underway, investigators soon believed that Patton murdered her husband.

According to authorities, the position of the body was an important factor in raising their suspicion. Secondly, after examining the victim’s wounds, it was found that there was no exit wound from the bullet, which would be expected in such a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The bullet was fired into the right of Bender’s head, who was left-handed. As well, the firearm was found far from the victim’s body, and there were no gunpowder residues on Bender’s hands.

And, while Patton claimed that her husband was bipolar and depressive, others, including friends and co-workers said that Bender was in good psychological health, and did not suffer from depression.

“A brilliant mathematician”

Bender had earned in excess of $600 million with a mathematical approach to Wall Street investing. He ran several arbitrage funds before suffering a stroke in 2000, according to online sources.

The couple’s mansion was an amazing 5-story, 8,000-squared foot house, which included an elevator, pool and helipad. It is said to be valued at $4.5 million. Authorities found over 300 Tiffany lamps inside the house, as well as over 3,000 precious gems. Among them were diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

The number of precious stones was such that investigators on the scene, initially attempting to count the diamonds and gems, later decided to simply begin weighing them and packing them into suitcases. In all, 4 suitcases full of diamonds and gems were removed from the home – and placed into the vaults of Costa Rica’s Central Bank.

One of Bender’s ex-coworkers from the Philadelphia Stock Exchange said of Bender, “John is the smartest person I’ve ever met. He was a brilliant mathematician. […] He was amazingly smart and quick…The last I heard, John’s fortune was about half a billion dollars. John got very rich using mathematics to understand things…”

The co-worker stated that the last time he saw Bender was more than 15 years ago, before he left Philadelphia. “He had started buying land in Costa Rica, he wanted to buy as much of the inland area as he could, he said he wanted to preserve the rainforest. He was a nice guy,” he added.

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