San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. woman acquitted in Costa Rica murder trial

A Costa Rican criminal court on Monday acquitted U.S. citizen Anne Marie Patton on charges of murdering her husband, John Felix Bender. The court said reasonable doubt existed about the cause of Bender’s death.

The trial began on Jan. 14 in the Southern Zone canton of Pérez Zeledón. Prosecutors alleged Patton had murdered her husband in order to steal millions of dollars worth of fine jewels.

Bender was found shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2010, at the couple’s luxury home south of Costa Rica’s capital.

Patton, 42, maintained throughout the trial that her husband committed suicide because he had bipolar disorder and suffered constant episodes of depression. She said he was treated several times in the U.S.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Fernando Oses refuted Patton’s version of events, pointing to testimony by a handful of experts and crime scene investigators.

He said that “with the position in which the body was found, and the path and the trajectory of the bullet, it was impossible for the victim to shoot himself.”

Investigators found no trace of gunpowder residue, neither on Bender nor on Patton.

Prosecutors had requested a 25-years prison sentence for Patton.

Contact L. Arias at

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