U.S. expat Ann Patton to face fourth murder trial

Ann Patton Bender, the widow of U.S. financier John Felix Bender, will face prosecutors who, for the fourth time in seven years, will try to prove that she killed her husband seven years ago.

The Prosecutor’s Office this week announced in a news release that on June 23, an Appellate Court “annulled the second acquittal of Anne Maxine Patton, 46, and ordered a new trial.”

Patton’s husband was found dead in his bed in Florida de Barú, Pérez Zeledón, with a bullet through the back of his head, on January 8, 2010. His wife was apparently the only person at home with him at the time of his death.

Since then, Bender has been through three separate murder trials for intentional homicide, and has served nine months of preventive detention at El Buen Pastor Prison.

She also had her jewels confiscated as evidence in a jewel smuggling case, lost her estate and nature reserve in the Southern Zone, and barely made it out of Costa Rica after she was acquitted at her third trial in September 2015.

At that time, legal experts consulted by The Tico Times expressed doubt that prosecutors would seek, or would be granted, a new trial for a person who had already been acquitted twice for the same crime. While there is no prohibition against double jeopardy in Costa Rican law, the Constitutional Chamber of the country’s Supreme Court has called for a “reasonable limit” on prosecutors’ ability to appeal rulings with which it does not agree.

In yesterday’s news release, the Prosecutor’s Office reported that the appellate judges ruled that Patton’s last acquittal “was not well-founded, as there was an inadequate analysis of the evidence provided during the trial.”

The court, however, did not disclose the date for the new trial, which will be announced by a Criminal Court in Pérez Zeledón.

Read The Tico Times coverage of Ann Patton Bender’s case here.