FL v. Ashley Benefield: Black Swan Murder Trial

Posted at 7:47 AM, July 24, 2024

BRADENTON, Fla. (Court TV) — A former ballerina is facing trial on charges she murdered her husband.

Ashley Benefield, 32, is charged with second-degree murder for the death of her husband, Douglas Benefield, 58, who was shot to death in Ashley’s bedroom in Sept. 2020. Ashley has not denied pulling the trigger but has argued that she did so in self-defense.

woman stands in courtroom

Ashley Benefield appears in court Tuesday, July 23, 2024. (Court TV)

Ashley and Douglas married in South Carolina just 13 days after meeting in 2016. After learning she was pregnant, Ashley moved to Florida and began fighting for sole custody of their child and accusing Douglas of abuse. After multiple hearings, a judge found Ashley’s claims did not have a “scintilla of credibility,” and awarded Douglas visitation in the months leading up to his death.

Douglas was killed while helping Ashley move her belongings to Maryland, where they were going to take up residence. During the move, Ashley, through her lawyer, said she shot her husband while fearing for her life after he allegedly assaulted her. Prosecutors claim Ashley had no intention of reconciling with Douglas and was moving to Maryland after she had exhausted her legal avenues in Florida to keep Douglas from seeing their daughter.

Judge Stephen Whyte refused to dismiss the charges following a two-day “Stand Your Ground” hearing in July 2023. In his ruling, Judge Whyte wrote that the evidence “proves clearly and convincingly that the defendant is not entitled to court-ordered immunity from criminal prosecution, as she was not justified in using deadly force against the victim on September 27, 2020.”

Despite the ruling, Ashley’s defense filed documents indicating they will be presenting evidence that the defendant suffers from “battered spouse syndrome.” Included on the defense’s witness list, along with expert witnesses, is Assistant State Attorney Suzanne O’Donnell, who is prosecuting the case. O’Donnell declined to press charges against Douglas after Ashley’s earlier claims of abuse.

DAILY TRIAL UPDATES

DAY2 – 7/24/24

DAY 1 – 7/23/24