Friday, 27 Nov 2020

Ex-ballerina, 28, ‘shoots dead estranged husband, 58, in heated custody battle’

A retired professional ballet dancer has been arrested for allegedly murdering her husband in a heated custody battle.

Police in Florida have confirmed Ashley Benefield, 28, allegedly opened fire on 58-year-old Doug Benefield when his back was turned on September 27.

The fatal shooting happened inside a gated community, Lakewoood Ranch home, reports the Bradenton Herald.

Ex-ballerina Benefield claimed that her husband attacked her before she shot him — but detectives found no evidence to back her her claims of physical abuse that would warrant acting self-defence, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said.

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Doug, who lived elsewhere, showed up to Ashley's mum's house where the ex-ballerina was staying when the shooting took place, deputies said.

Detectives said Ashley hit Doug twice from the four shots she fired from a .45 calibre handgun, with two other bullets found lodged in a wall.

Judging by the area of Doug's bullet wounds, “it does not appear that he was facing Ashley when she began shooting,” the court doc states.

Court records show the dancer began to file domestic violence reports against Doug about two years ago, soon after she realised she was pregnant.

The affidavit states: “It appears that the main focus of these complaints was to keep the child away from Douglas.”

Ashley had not long before attempted to file an injunction to keep her husband away from their daughter, but the judge in the case found that her story of abuse did not have “a scintilla of truth,” the court document states.

The judge ordered that Doug could visit their child, responding “at this point, it appeared Ashley had exhausted all legal means to keep the child away from Douglas before the shooting,” the affidavit states.

The 58-year-old was still alive when police responded to the shooting having taken a bullet to his leg and another that had grazed his right arm and entered his chest.

But he was pronounced dead at hospital.

Weeks were spent reviewing the case but found nothing to back up Ashley’s claims of violence which left investigators with no other route than to issue an arrest warrant.

Mrs Benefield responded to the warrant on Wednesday night by turning herself in.

She was charged with second-degree murder and remains held behind bars without bond pending a later court date.

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