An ICR special report
January 16th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) The trial of Anne Maxin Patton, 42, began in Costa Rica on Monday. The U.S. woman is facing first-degree murder charges stemming from the death of her husband, John Felix Bender. Prosecutors say the woman shot her husband in the head.
The alleged murder occurred in January 2010, on the 4th floor of the couple’s mansion, located on a 5,000-acre estate in Baru, Perez Zeledon, in Costa Rica. The Penal Court in Perez Zeledon had ordered 3 months of preventive detention of the woman shortly after her husband’s death, and she was forced to turn in her passport to authorities. She is currently under house arrest as her trial proceeds.
In her first court appearance on Monday, the woman gave her statement in Spanish, which took close to four hours, and also took questions from the prosecution. However, when pressed for details by prosecutors, the woman claimed she couldn’t remember the details of the events.
The prosecutor in the case, Luis Fernando Oses, accused Patton of shooting her husband.
The murder is only part of the story, however. Besides the murder case, the San Jose Tax Court is processing another case against Patton for participating in the illicit trafficking of diamonds and precious stones.
In addition, there is another process in the Penal Court of Pavas, this time initiated by the woman herself against a lawyer by the last name of Alvarez. Patton claims the lawyer administered a trust fund belonging to her late husband, and has failed to return those assets since his death.
Patton said that she met her husband in the U.S. in March of 1998. Early in their relationship they found that they both suffered from bipolar disorder, which brought them closer and hastened their relationship.
Bender 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.
Mrs. Bender is a Brazilian naturalized as a U.S. citizen. She explained that her husband worked in the purchase and sale of stocks, “sort of like a broker,” and that they had businesses in the United States and Japan.
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.
Patton also mentioned that in 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.
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.
Addressing the judge, Patton added, “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.”
After her statement, a member of the Perez Zeledon Red Cross, Carlos Fernandez Mora, took the stand. He stated that on the day of the alleged homicide, when the Red Cross assisted Mrs. Bender, she was calm, serene and her blood pressure was normal.
Afterwards, an ex-employee of the family, Waldo Mora, testified that the family had a number of firearms in the mansion, including an AK-47.
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.
Apparently, Bender brought the jewels from Africa to sell them in private, millionaire-only auctions at the couple’s mansion. Participants would travel to Costa Rica exclusively to participate. Authorities believe the jewels involved may have been black market.
The jewels were confiscated by the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), until it can be determined if import taxes were paid, and the source of the gems.
OIJ authorities stated that the confiscated fortune of jewels have been placed in the vaults of the Banco Central de Costa Rica. If Patton is unable to prove the legality of the jewels, and pay appropriate tax, they will be forfeited to the State.
Initially, police believed Patton’s account of the events. However, authorities state they are now quite certain the death was a homicide as a result of evidence and inconsistencies with Patton’s account.
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, while Patton claims 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.
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.
Twenty-five witnesses will be testifying in the trial, which is intended to conclude on Friday.
Update January 17th, 2013: