John Bender died in his Costa Rican rainforest mansion. Murder or suicide?

Discussion in 'Crimes, Trials & Missing Persons' started by cynic, Oct 23, 2014.

  1. cynic

    cynic Member

    John Felix Bender, a brilliant mathematician, had amassed nearly 600 million dollars on Wall Street.
    In Virginia, in 1998, a friend introduced John to Anne Maxine Patton.Three weeks later he asked her to marry him.
    In 2000, Ann and John moved to Costa Rica. They planned to build a private refuge for injured, abandoned and endangered animals on a secluded 9.65-square-mile property in the remote southwestern corner of the country. They constructed a spectacular and unique four-story circular glass mansion, called Boracayan, totalling some 80,000 square feet of living space.
    By 2008, John’s legal battles and other issues had whittled away at his fortune, and he and Ann invested the bulk of their liquid assets—roughly $90 million in a Costa Rica–based trust.
    According to Ann Patton, her husband John committed suicide at 12:15 a.m. on January 8th, 2010.
    Allegedly, both John and Ann suffered from bipolar disorder and experienced depression.
    However, others, including friends and co-workers said that John was in good psychological health, and did not suffer from depression.

    Was it murder or suicide?

    His head was tilted to the left. In the back of his head, on the right, was where the bullet from John’s 9mm Ruger pistol entered. (The wound was in the right occipital region, a little more than two and a quarter inches away (towards the right) from the middle line of the neck.)
    His left wrist dangled off the left side of the bed. Very near the pool of blood on the floor was John’s pistol in a position that was suggestive of staging – as if the gun had just dropped from his hand. While it would make sense that the gun would drop from the hand of a left-handed person to the left side of the body, (and John was left-handed,) it would not make sense given the location of the bullet entry wound to the right rear of John’s head.
    It’s simply not possible to hold a gun with the left hand and fire a shot behind the right ear with a trajectory that would lead the bullet to near the left eye.
    Evidence would later suggest, however, that while John was left-handed, he shot firearms with his right hand.
    A spent bullet casing lay behind the bed, some 13 feet away, closer to Ann’s side than John’s.

    Dr. Flores, a pathologist would testify at trial that the body of John showed “no sign of struggling,†“and is consistent with what we characterize as a body in rest.â€
    Flores also discussed the importance of the location of John’s right hand, which was shown to be lying flat on a pillow tucked down by John’s right waist. John’s vital functions had ceased the moment the bullet entered his brain. “It is very difficult, anatomically, to shoot in that position,†Flores said. Even if John had done so, she said, his arm would have immediately fallen “inert.â€
    She was asked the question, “Is it possible to shoot with the right hand and end with the position in which it was found?†She answered, “In my experience, it is not possible.â€

    The prosecution also contended that there was no exit wound from the bullet, which would be expected in a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
    Only Ann tested positive for gunpowder residue - her clothes, hands and some napkins she had used had GSR on them. She also had very little blood on her clothing.
    John did not test positive for GSR.
    When John died, he was wearing earplugs, had three pillows under his head, and his legs were flexed in a sleeping/fetal position. Prosecutors would contend that it is illogical that he would shoot himself in that position.

    The firearm must have been far from a bullet-tear in the pillow when it was fired, because if the gun had come in contact with the pillow, or been in very close proximity, it would have produced a smoke and burn pattern suggestive of such proximity. This led the court to conclude that the gun was discharged far from the victim’s head
    Ann Bender’s height is five-three, and she weighed about 84 pounds at the time of John’s death, well under her healthy weight of around 110 - 115 pounds.
    John Bender’s height was six-three and he weighed in excess of 250 pounds.
    The disparity in strength was so significant that Ann’s story of wrestling for the gun is improbable.
    The prosecution’s theory about motive was hinted at but not explicitly stated: money, Ann wanted the jewels. On the morning after John’s death, investigators found more than 3,000 gems inside the home with an estimated value of about 20 million dollars.
    After more than a week of testimony, a Costa Rica criminal court convicted Ann Maxin Patton, 43, of shooting to death her husband John Felix Bender, 44.

    • Ann’s story:
    In a nutshell, John was insane and suicidal - ultimately he shot himself.

    • The period preceding John’s death:
    In the months preceding his death, when Ann was off seeing a doctor, John sent her an e-mail:
    I’m losing my f***ing mind right now. First sick again and now this s**t. Today is a total f***ing nightmare and tomorrow will get worse. Just when I was feeling I could finally learn to be happy, now I get this and I want to be dead. I feel so f***ing horrible. I want to kill everyone and then me.… I deserve to die.
    Two months later, she sent an email to John's parents telling them "For the first time in 11 years, we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of both being depressed at the same time." Two days, later John was dead.
    Ann describes that period this way: “Every day, during the last six weeks, we would sit down and he would take all the medications we had and put them into piles and say, ‘OK, when am I gonna start taking the pills?’ There would be these suicide dress rehearsals. And if I went along with them, we got through the day.â€

    Ann says John was convinced that the water in the area could cure her. He also set up his own treatment regimen: an unknown concoction administered daily by injection.
    “He was psychotic,†Ann says. “He started experimenting with me. He was injecting me with certain things. And I allowed this to happen.â€
    Ann’s skin was covered with open boils, welts, and infections. Most of the sores turned out to be needle marks from the injections John gave her.

    • The night of John’s death:
    “John was talking. He was saying some things. I don’t remember exactly what he was saying.… He had a routine ritual. He had to have his pillows arranged a particular way. I was already in bed. I was falling asleep, kind of in and out, and I heard him say something like, ‘You don’t know how it feels to wake up with your spouse half dead next to you.’
    I opened my eyes and I saw—and once one has seen it, you know what it is—those two little dots that are the sight of the gun. The glow. And I realized that he had one of the handguns in his hands. And he was lying back on the pillows. And he had the gun pointed at his face as he was talking.
    “When I saw the gun I was stunned, and my immediate reaction was to get up on my knees and try to reach for it,†she went on. “The gun was loaded and cocked. I reached for the gun with both hands, and I was up on my knees. And I did put my hands on the gun. And the gun slipped through my hands. And it went off.â€
    Ann said she ran around to John’s side of the bed, saw blood dripping to the floor, picked up a two-way radio to call for help, and turned on a light. “I think I was in shock, because I was running around—which, given the state I was in, I shouldn’t have been able to do. But I remember I did, like, four laps around the bed as I was waiting for somebody to come up and help me. At this point, I already knew he was dead, because I’d heard that death rattle—that last breath.â€

    • From another interview:
    Ann contracted Lyme disease and walked with a cane. She allegedly has permanent nerve damage in her hands and feet.
    That night, she wasn't able to walk and John carried her to the elevator of their home.
    Ann says they followed their nightly routine. John turned out the lights and they got into bed. Ann says she began to doze off.
    “I was lying on my belly, face down. My head facing towards him and I opened my eyes because I heard him talking.â€
    Though it was dark, Ann says she could see that John had a gun pointed at his head. Ann says she took action almost instinctively.
    “I reared up on my knees, lunged towards him. And in the process of putting my hands or hand to his, we fell toward each other. He had the gun loaded and cocked - we fell towards each other and the gun went off.â€

    • Another account:
    Q. Did you touch the gun?
    A. BENDER: No, his hands were too big.
    Q. Did you remember if it was pointing at himself with one hand or with both hands?
    A. I just grabbed both his hands.
    On cross examination, Ann told the prosecutor that she lost her grip on John's hands, started falling back and the gun went off.

    • Ann's interview with CBS 48 Hours:
    On Jan. 7, 2010, Ann Bender said it was nearly midnight when she got in bed and turned out the lights. She had just drifted off to sleep when, "I opened my eyes and I saw the outline of the trigger of the gun ... and he had it pointed at his head ... at himself..." she said.
    Horrified, Ann said she recognized their 9mm Ruger pistol.
    "From what I could tell he was holding it with both hands," she said.
    "And what'd you do?" Spencer asked.
    "I got up on my knees and reared towards him and I tried to grab the gun," said Ann.
    "Were you able to get it?"
    "No. I was able to get my hands around his and the gun slipped and it went off," she replied.
    Just minutes later, their security guard, Oswaldo Aguilar, was first on the scene.
    "She said to me, 'I tried to stop him and I couldn't do it,'" he told "48 Hours."
    Asked if there was a long struggle, an emotional Ann told Spencer, "No ... I remember it as being instantaneous. It couldn't have been any more than two seconds."
    "When it went off, who was holding it?" Spencer asked of the gun.
    "I don't think anyone was holding it," Ann replied.
    "How does a gun go off when no one's holding it?" Spencer pressed.
    "I think that it fell. He dropped it," Ann said. "I never touched the gun."
    "Did you move anything, touch anything, or change anything in that room?" Spencer asked Ann.
    "The only thing I remember doing is using the radio, unlocking the elevator and touching John," she replied.
    "But as far as the gun?"
    "The shell casings?"
    "I don't remember," Ann replied.
    "The pillow ..."
    "I don't remember anything," said Ann.

    • Reasons why Ann’s story is improbable:
    Why would John choose to shoot himself in bed next to his wife who he presumably loved? After all, she would awaken to find brain tissue and blood spatter on her person as well as the general horrific sight of her husband with a gunshot wound to his head lying in a bloody mess next to her. Would John really wish to subject Ann to this? He lived in a massive home with many thousands of square feet in which to find a more private place to commit suicide.

    Why would he be in a sleeping/fetal position with earplugs in his ears if he was about to shoot himself in the head?

    Why would John make it a virtual certainty that Ann would at least be arrested if not convicted of his death by committing suicide in such ambiguous circumstances and with no suicide note to help alleviate suspicion. Ann, for example, was out of town a few months prior – why not do it at that time? After all, John was no fool and was considered a genius by many.

    How probable is it that Ann would awaken at the precise time that John was presumably about to pull the trigger?

    How did John commit suicide and end up with no GSR while Ann has GSR on her hands, clothes and some napkins with which she was wiping her hands? (This was not addressed by the Eikelenbooms - the forensic team hired by CBS 48 Hours.)

    Why would John choose a gun to commit suicide if, according to Ann, the “suicide rehearsals†all involved pills? (And, of course, we have only Ann’s word that there were such rehearsals.)

    Given the vast difference in strength is it feasible that Ann would have been successful in pulling John’s hand back so far that the gunshot would have been to the back of the head?

    Would it not be more probable that John would have turned to face Ann if she lunged toward him and attempted to grab the gun rather than turn away as would have had to have been the case for the entry wound to be where it was found?

    How did the gunshot tear the pillow beneath his head? The Eikelenbooms attempted to recreate the suicide-with-struggle scenario but they did not address the pillow issue. I believe it to be the most damning evidence in favor of the theory of homicide. Richard Eikelenboom’s comment, “I believe it favors the prosecution,†is a huge understatement.
    The effort by the Eikelenbooms did account for the entry wound and explained how the gun could have fallen to the floor near John’s left hand. It’s all for naught, however, if the pillow is not explained - and there is no way it could fit into their recreation.
    I considered the possibility of John’s hand being pulled back and toward the center of the bed which would account for the entry wound as well, but in that scenario the gun would have ended up in the middle of the bed and while it might produce a bullet-tear in the pillow, a shot at such close range would have produced a pronounced smoke and burn pattern which was simply not present.


    I should note that those who have voiced their support of Ann, notably her brother, have explained the evidence pointing to Ann by concluding that she was essentially framed by the police who moved items and staged the scene.
    It’s easy to explain virtually anything with such a defense. However, not only did Ann say she did not move anything or manipulate the scene, she never claimed that the scene was manipulated by anyone else including the police.
    Members of the security team hired by the Benders also had an opportunity to come forward and say that that the evidence presented at trial did not reflect the scene as they witnessed it, but no one came forward. Therefore, I must assume that the crime scene photos did accurately depict the area.
    There were some horrendous mistakes in the investigation, some of which were highlighted by the Eikelenbooms and others. Perhaps the most obvious was the failure to fingerprint the gun.
    For those suggesting that the police and others were corrupt opportunists that took advantage of the situation to seize nearly everything of value in the home, including the main attraction, the gems - that may be true.
    Even that, however, doesn’t prove that they manipulated the scene, and Ann isn’t guilty.
    I’d like to believe that Ann isn’t guilty but there seems to be no plausible explanation other than homicide.



    Murder or Suicide?



    Gunshots – Distance determination

    [​IMG] Scene Investigation&f=false
  2. zoomama

    zoomama Active Member

    Mrder vs suicide

    Cynic, this is a wonder! How many times have we seen some botched crime scene evidence. The pillow seems to be the missing answer. Her trying to get the gun seems illogical too. They mention that she has trouble with her hands and feet but I would think that adrenal would kick in with that first sight of the gun in his hand and work for her. JMO It's interesting that the government gets to keep all of the assets like jewels and property too I guess. Interesting case. Thanks.

    His repeated thoughts of suicide as well as hers show a very unstable couple. She no doubt got in inherit most of his fortune. It all seems more like murder to me.
  3. cynic

    cynic Member

    Hey Zoomama,

    Thanks for having a look at this one.
    I do think that the pillow is the crucial piece of the puzzle.
    You’re absolutely right about lunging for a loaded and cocked gun, (if it happened, of course.) Pretty low odds of that ending well.

    Ann would not have inherited anything per se, she would have continued to be the caretaker of Boracayan, which is funded by the trust. The jewels, however, they were fair game.

    There were two winners here, the Costa Rican government who pillaged the home of all valuables, and the manager of the trust that John established, Juan de Dios Alvarez, who allegedly helped himself to about 40 million dollars.​
  4. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    Wow, cynic, I thought you had posted this at WS. Moab has told me to use that "New Posts" button for years.... :duh:

    This looks like another amazing collection of evidence from a truly puzzling case, so thanks for all your trouble, cynic. Thanks for putting this together. I'll check it out, as I saw a TV documentary on this not too long ago. Of course, they're never as thorough as you, so I'm sure you'll clear up some of the confusion for me.
  5. Elle

    Elle Member

    Glad I'm not a detective!

    cynic, I felt like I was reading a detective book with your posts. Have you ever written one? If not, you should! Bet you it would be a real good one!

    I still like to drop in to FFJ and read all your posts, although I'm not involved any more;
    they are always very interesting. Thank you!

  6. Elle

    Elle Member

    I just read this again, cynic, and I feel this couple, the Benders both needed special care; however under the sad circumstances they obviously didn't want anyone else there, and I think anyone working for them may well have been afraid of them.

    Koldcase, What was the title of the TV documentary?
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