San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Anne Patton

High-profile murder retrial underway in Costa Rica for US expat Ann Patton

Ann Maxin Patton, 43, was in court again today in San Isidro de El General for a retrial on charges that she murdered her husband, U.S. financier John Felix Bender, 44, in a bizarre incident at their jungle mansion in 2010.

Patton, born in Brazil, has always claimed Bender’s death, the result of a single gunshot wound to the neck, had been a suicide. A Costa Rican court had cleared her once of the charges, but an appeals court tossed out that verdict and ordered a retrial.

Upon entering the courtroom Monday morning, Patton said, “I hope justice in Costa Rica does its job, as it did the first time. I must trust this country’s justice system. My husband committed suicide and that’s what happened. All this is very painful to relive.”

Costa Rican prosecutor Edgar Ramírez, however, insisted Patton killed her husband as he slept. “We will demonstrate that there is convincing evidence, scientific proof that is irrefutable, “Ramírez said.

Asked by the court on Monday about her relationship with Bender, Patton described how the two met, how their relationship evolved and how it ended on a fateful night in January 2010.

Patton said she met Bender on March 15, 1998 at 4:30 p.m. “On that day it was love at first sight for both of us,” she said.

For the next two weeks she visited Bender where he was living, on a farm in the U.S. state of Virginia.

“Besides love at first sight, what made us such good friends, such good partners, were primarily our love for animals, a love for conservation, a love for any and all things that were conservationist in ethics and in action,” Patton said.

In the U.S., Bender worked from home as a hedge fund manager, and Patton became his personal assistant as he worked 18 hours a day, six days a week.

“This was John’s trust in me, and he seeing in me someone that he felt to be intelligent, useful, valuable, was an amazingly beautiful thing for me, just at a time when I needed it most,” Patton testified.

“After we met and fell in love I remember something that John told me, that he had never expected that it would happen to him. He had felt that he would never meet someone that he would want to spend the rest of his life with,” Patton said.

“Between when we met and when we decided to come to Costa Rica for the first time for me, which was November of ’98, over the course of that time we realized in our discussions the way we were living together, how successfully we were able to live and work together 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the exception of when we had doctors appointments or the like,” she added.

According to Patton, at 30, Bender decided he would continue working a few years and then move to Costa Rica, where he planned to establish a wildlife refuge.

In March 2000, the couple moved to Costa Rica permanently, where they settled into 5,000 acres of land in the Southern Zone. They met and hired a lawyer, who also would become a fiduciary for the land deals in Florida de Barú, Pérez Zeledón.

In previous statements to the press, Patton has said the couples’ lives together began to change one year after moving to Costa Rica. She claimed they were attacked by corrupt police who had been hired by another U.S. citizen, who had sued Bender. To protect themselves, they bought firearms and allegedly obtained firearm permits.

They continued their plan of building a jungle paradise home and retreat, and in October 2004, construction of the Boyacarán wilderness refuge was complete.

But Patton testified that Bender’s estate trustee said he was quickly running out of money, and the death of some animals on the estate led Bender to believe he had failed at in his conservation efforts. Patton said her husband’s frame of mind quickly deteriorated and he became depressed. He also had a history of depression and bipolar disorder, she said.

Patton’s version of the events on Jan. 8, 2010 has remained consistent with her past statements: Her husband committed suicide and she fought with him that night in an unsuccessful attempt to wrestle the firearm away from him. Prosecutors, however, say she shot him.

In January 2013, a Costa Rican court agreed with Patton’s version of events, and the case was thrown out. But in August 2013, an appeals court in Cartago, east of the capital, annulled the previous ruling and ordered the court in Pérez Zeledón to schedule a new trial.

According to the appeals court, the penal court that first heard Patton’s case failed to correctly review evidence and alleged inconsistencies in Patton’s testimony.

Prosecutors say that when Bender died, he was wearing earplugs, had three pillows under his head, and his legs were flexed in a sleeping position. They claim it is illogical that he would shoot himself in that position. They also say there were no signs of gunpowder residue on Bender’s hands, while Patton allegedly wiped her hands with napkins after the shooting. Those napkins revealed traces of gunpowder, prosecutors claim.

Patton has Lyme disease, and to alleviate symptoms she took intravenous morphine, she testified, along with an anticoagulant and antibiotics. She also is bipolar, and takes clonazepam and alprazolam.

The trial is expected to last a week.

The case is featured in a special CNN investigation titled, “Love & Death in Paradise.” Watch a trailer here:

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Luis Diego Campos

It is very natural for North Americans to think that any USA citizen out of USA always going to be the victims and every other nation is full of criminals and corruption. Its normal to think like this when you live in Disneyland(USA) but the reality is far away from your fantasy world.
Here are some questions that might change your prespective.
If you were kidnappend by corrupted cops,will you stay in the country?
CR has one of the oldest democracy in America and of course there is higher law enforcement department that investigate corruption, how come they did not filled out a police report? instead they got a private security for unknown reasons since they never filled out a police report.
They knew that in order to get guns legally they have to go to a phycological tes, what happend?
No medical help prior to the incident that could it prevent this unfortunate event.
Heliport at their house wich many misterious flights with misterious people often visite them, most likely jewelry relate it.
Courts determine that these couple of locos came to CR fleeing away from the USA for an unknown reason but most likely running away from uncle Sam since they had a international well organize illegal jewelry bussiness in CR and not 1 colon was paid to the pura vida papys from hacienda (IRS charges jewelry 29.9%lamps 29.9% and pretty rocks 49.9%).
Her side of the story is full of it. Money in offshore banks, locos buying guns, arm security all over their fortress(reminds me of scarface movie), OIJ and prosecutors found blood on other areas of their home, she has gun powder on her at the time of the crime. The body was tested and found negative on gunpowder,ballistic test was applied and the position of the body was consider to be imposible for him to hold the gun, and finally one of MR.Patton relatives testified agains her. Her only evidence was a suicide email and one of her relative testified at her favor. My personal opinion is that she thought that she was going to get away with a crime with a little bit of money in a third world country. Morale of the story is never underestimate police.
Just a few days ago I learned that PCD costa rican police is rank as one of the best police in the world…

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Audrey Curry

She is innocent. The corruption down there is unbelievable! The reason they wanted her in jail is for her money and belongings, I sure her and his family did not get it back. Corruption is the heart of the reason so many countries in South America can not get ahead and people aren’t doing well, they are always getting ripped off by their government and officials. So disgusting

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John Lewis

I don’t trust the police involved in this case. They confiscated millions in gems. Also the person that set up a trust for them, managed to steal it all The problem here is crooked Costa Ricans.

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Strange Story. This story has a few holes in it.

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If he was a poor man, it would not be a story. Nor would the prosecutors be interested in his wife. Like with high profile drug cases- lawyers, prosecutors and judges are trying to get greased in the process. An appeal never should have over-turned this case. There is no concrete additional evidence to do so.

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I know Ann personally. She is innocent. Every comment being made about the Costa Rican judicial system being corrupt is absolutely true. And now an innocent woman will spend the next 22 years of her life in jail (but with her medical conditions, its likely she won’t make it that long). This is just sickening… I can’t even come up with strong enough words in my vocabulary to express how I really feel right now. But for those that believe she is guilty-you are entitled to your own opinion. But maybe consider where your information and facts, or lack of rather, is coming from first before you rush to judge. She did not kill her husband and is innocent.

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