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Friday, January 29th, 2016  |  USD: Buy 531.29 / Sell 543.92
20 years

US forensic team hired by 48 Hours questions conviction of Anne Bender

Anne Maxin Patton trial

Foto: Luis Navarro / Archive

By Perez Zeledon Community Reporter, Carol Vaughn

Editor’s note: Inside Costa Rica provided extensive coverage of both the first trial and retrial of Anne Maxine Patton.  Click here for an archive of our coverage of the case.


August 29th, 2014 ( What if you heard a tale of a mysterious murder/suicide in an 8,000-square foot glass mansion, with 550 Tiffany lamps, 3,000 loose rubies, diamonds, and sapphires, a helipad, and a moat separating it from one of the world’s most rugged jungles – would you think this was a movie script, or the plotline of a pulp fiction novel?


It happens to all be true, and it happens to have taken place in Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica.


On January 8th, 2010, multimillionaire John Bender died of a single gunshot wound to his head.  His wife Ann claims that she awoke to find her husband in bed, naked, with a gun pointed at his head, and when she attempted to wrestle the gun from his hands, it discharged and killed him.  Authorities had their doubts, and convicted Ann of murder in a retrial.


CBS “48 Hours” sent a famous husband/wife forensic team to Costa Rica to examine the case, and is promising a complete report in its fall television series.  Richard and Selma Eikelenboom traveled to Costa Rica to review the case, conduct tests at the couple’s mansion, and evaluate the evidence against Ann Bender as the murderer.  The pair concluded that the evidence supported Mrs. Bender’s account of the case more than the Prosecution’s.


To further complicate matters, the Benders were both bipolar, and John had attempted suicide at least one previous time.  Ann is suffering from Lyme disease as well as bipolar disorder, and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since the incident.


The Benders were reported to have been worth $600 million dollars, and had come to Costa Rica to establish a wildlife reserve in La Florida de Baru, which they called “Boracayan”.  The story of their strange reclusive lifestyle, their many legal battles in Costa Rica, and their apparent worsening mental health should make for some shocking television this fall.

Carol Vaughn

Carol Vaughn is an Inside Costa Rica Community Reporter covering Perez Zeledon.

Carol Vaughn holds a Master’s Degree in Performing Arts and is retired from a career as a tap dancer and teacher. She moved to Costa Rica two years ago from Washington, DC, and settled into a cabin on the banks of the Quebradas River in Perez Zeledon.

She also blogs for AngloINFO and is a volunteer Warden for the US Embassy for Perez Zeledon, helping out fellow Americans in emergencies.

Editor’s note: Our Community Reports do not undergo our normal editorial process and are provided by volunteer Community Reporters.  If you notice an error, or believe the report contains something inaccurate, please send an email to [email protected]  If you are interested in becoming a volunteer Community Reporter for your area, please write [email protected]
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  • duke ster

    What a fascinating story, thanks editor for reminding us that you have reported the story and are offering us the opportunity to re-read it. That is very insightful of you to realize that we reads would want to re-visit your reporting of this story. So many juicy details, loose precious stones so numerous they had to be weighed–INCREDIBLE!!!! It makes you wonder how many of these stones ended up in police pockets before reaching the station. I mean no offense against the police I simply wonder who among us could resist taking a handful , knowing there were so many and , well…. And the flimsy story of a husband with a weapon in his hand and the wife struggling to get it away and then it goes off–not into a wall because remember it was a struggle ,but it went off directly into his head? I wonder what the 48nhrs investigating team will come up with? I mean with the wife’s money, who wouldn’t write a good defense story for the right amount? Crazy that these Tico cops have access to these stones. I wonder how many precious stones will or have already have been replaced with costume jewelry stones? Can I please have access to view these stones? Please please? I am an investigator into this case and an expert precious stone appraiser–( sound like a good front story?) I’ll bet you couldn’t get within a mile of these stones –where they are supposedly being stored. Anyway I hope someone is doing a movie of this one in a million event–actually one in several million haha. Does anyone have any more information into who is staying in the home now and who is taking charge of the estate? I would volunteer but I value my life too much to go anywhere near the estate where so many Tico officials have their hands on access. Not safe my friend. Someone once said the cops were behind the whole thing so they could get rich. The coming to a wild west country like Costa Rica with tons of money is in itself a suicide mission. Seems the guy was smart, yet dumb, know what I mean? Heck I was going all around escazu looking for property and it was known ( because of my stupidity and big mouth) that I had sold my home in USA and was looking to buy in Escazu. Well a kind Tico met me on a moonlit windy night on a strangely deserted mountain road and walked up to me and told me he had been in USA before and so was friendly with Americans -( it was a really weird incident right out of a scary movie, the guy wore a long black coat which was blowing in the wind and, well , he warned me that certain people knew I sold my home and that I was flush and was looking for property and that I should be very very careful. Wow I was probably being followed for a kidnapping. The nearby mountain home ( near the valley Azul high mountain area, near the famous mountain cross) of a Gringo was empty because the Gringo owner was running a construction crew to build the home and one Saturday evening upon returning from the bank to the home to pay the crew for the weeks work, he was waylaid by highwaymen who shot him. He managed to shoot back and escape but was severely hurt by the gunshots and he promptly fled the country after he was recovered well enough to do so. Someone on the crew set him up because he followed a set pattern of coming back to the home every weekend to pay the crew with cash-let this be a warning if there are still any Gringos building here– have your crew meet you at the bank–inside-and pay them there. I also came out of the bank in town and after driving my car a few yards realized the tire was flat. Certainly a crew of thieves had seen me at the bank and punctured my tire( I found a metal hollow tube rammed into the tire). I immediately pulled into a vacant parking space and walked 1/2 block to a car parts store where I bought some fix a flat. This happened twice. Watch your asses people. I always carried a gun but sometimes they can get the drop on you anyway. Never a fun thing, being in a shoot out. Now a young girl being stabbed in Escazu–over a cell phone? They are getting worse and more desperate–watch out! There was a guy selling tear gas pistols– these shoot a stream of gas in a pencil lead thickness–very good weapon. But to get refills was impossible–now I think you can order from e-bay and get things shipped to your mail box in CR–I suggest carrying a tear gas PISTOL! or even better is BEAR SPRAY!! Just don’t follow the directions which tell you to spray a test spray because this stuff is so powerful and nasty that you will no longer be able to carry it because the residual spray will bleed through a baggie ( I rubber n=banded on the top) plus another carryingbag– just know it sprays about 7 feet and is going to stop a bear so a thief will be no problem to stop dead in his tracks. Get some on e-bay–I did and now everyone better leave me very much alone. better than a gun. You won’t be put in Tico prison for shooting anyone and you will be able to stomp on the little bee bee balls of the attackers while they are desperately trying to breath haha. God Bless everyone!

  • Pablo Bolaños-Villegas

    No offense but Costa Rica is an independent country, it´s up to our government to dispense justice.

    • Joe1047

      I agree. The problem is there is way too much corruption these days to rely on the government to anything except continue to abuse their power and take from the people. I am very interested to see what comes from this investigative team.

  • friend

    This case has never discussed motive. John and Ann had prenup. She was not entitled to anything if she left him. He was controlling and abusive and she wanted out of the marriage. He didn’t want her to continue to go to NY and started injecting her. John always slept in the nude and wore earplugs. he prepared for sleep that night as usual. The trust was started to not give her money. She is using his death to say she is entitled to the trust. The trust was for the refuge. She could live there as a caretaker.

    • Real Friend

      “friend”…you make some interesting points, but I feel I must correct your comment with actual facts.

      First: Motive has been discussed for over 4 1/2 years, and there is none. The judges in both trials admit in their decisions that there is no clear motive, but one is not necessary for a conviction. In the absence of clear evidence a jury (or in Costa Rica) a panel of judges will often consider motive as a factor because generally speaking there is a reason people do what they do. But there is no money motive in Ann’s case, nor can it be argued that she is better off with John gone.

      Second: Ann is listed as the secondary beneficiary of the trust “Vida Ecologica”, the refuge (Boracayan) is listed as the primary beneficiary. There are no other beneficiaries. If you have something that refutes that please feel free to share. John was not a beneficiary of the trust. There are legal reasons for this structure that I won’t get into here, and the simple fact is the structure failed to provide for either Ann or the refuge due to the actions of Juan de Dios Alvarez (who was removed for fraudulent administration in January of 2013).

      As far as your other statements I would be curious if you have evidence to support them? E-mails, recorded conversations, or is it just conjecture? I’m sure nobody knows exactly what John did that night, and whether it was usual or not, as nobody else was there. If you are a “friend”, I’m wondering a friend of whom?

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