FL v. Ashley Benefield: Black Swan Murder Trial

Posted at 5:03 PM, April 27, 2023 and last updated 9:08 AM, May 1, 2023


BRADENTON, Fla. (Court TV) – A former ballerina is charged with second-degree murder for the death of her husband, with whom she owned a dancing company.

Ashley Benefield is accused of murdering her husband, Douglas Benefield, in her Florida bedroom on September 27, 2020.

In a criminal complaint, detectives with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said they received a 911 call from one of Benefield’s neighbors on the evening of the 27th, saying that Ashley had come over saying she had been attacked by her husband and shot him.

Booking photo of Ashley Benefield

Ashley Benefield is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Douglas. (Manatee County Sheriff’s Office)

When deputies arrived at the scene, they found Douglas on the floor of Ashley’s bedroom. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:09 p.m.

Detectives said that they determined four shots had been fired and found the casings of four .45 casings.

Douglas was shot twice, with one bullet entering the outside of his right leg and exiting the inside of the leg. The second bullet skipped across his right bicep and entered his chest cavity from the right. Detectives noted there was no stippling on Douglas’ body or clothing, which indicated to investigators that the gun was fired from a distance of several feet.

“Based on the entry wounds on Douglas it does not appear that he was facing Ashley when she began shooting. It also does not appear that Douglas had taken any kind of defensive or combative stance. After being shot Douglas fell to the ground and it appears that he may have struck his head on the wall on the way down.”

Detectives noted in the criminal complaint that Ashley had already retained an attorney before arriving at the police station for an interview, and when she arrived said that she did not wish to make a statement. A detective said she did make a spontaneous statement to him, “advising me that her ears were still ringing.”

WATCH: Black Swan Murder Case: Ex-Ballerina Charged in Husband’s Death

In the criminal complaint, dated November 4, 2020, detectives noted: “Numerous requests have been made through Ashley’s legal counsel to set up an interview to discuss what occurred in the room that night. As of this writing, Ashley has not provided a statement or interview.”

Though Ashley told her neighbor that she shot Douglas in self-defense, officers noted she had no injuries and her clothing was not ripped, torn or stretched. One scratch was noted on Ashley’s right side, but a witness told police that she had been scratched one day prior to her husband’s death by someone carrying a box.

In a series of videos posted to social media, Douglas Benefield’s daughter, Eva, shared her side of the story, in which she said her father married Ashley months after his wife, Eva’s mother, passed away from a heart condition. Eva said that Ashley quickly got pregnant after the two were married and moved to Florida to live with her mother while Eva and her father remained in Charleston, South Carolina.

Eva, 21, said that after she graduated high school and began college that her father moved to Bradenton, Florida, to be with Ashley and their baby.

In the criminal complaint, detectives said that they determined that after finding out she was pregnant, Ashley began making allegations against Douglas, none of which ever resulted in criminal charges and all of which were deemed “unfounded.”

Detectives said that in the months leading up to Douglas’ death, Ashley had been filing the complaints in an attempt to keep him away from the child. In one of the last hearings before his death, Ashley and Douglas appeared before a judge for an injunction hearing, during which the judge advised that she did not find Ashley’s story to have a “scintilla of truth” and ordered Douglas to have access to the child for visitation. “At this point, it appears that Ashley had exhausted all legal means of keeping the child away from Douglas before the shooting,” detectives wrote in the criminal complaint.

Ashley and Douglas met in 2016, when Ashley was 24 and a former ballerina and swimsuit model, CBS News reported. The couple married just 13 days after they met.

Ashley is scheduled to appear in court for a stand-your-ground hearing on July 6, 2023.