Lakewood Ranch woman charged in husband’s murder

Manatee County

LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla (WFLA) – A 28-year-old woman in Lakewood Ranch is facing a second degree murder charge in her husband’s death. Following a five week investigation, detectives developed probable cause to issue a warrant for Ashley Benefield’s arrest. Her attorneys were notified and she turned herself in Wednesday night.

The investigation started back on Sept. 27 when deputies were called out to the 11300 block of White Rock Terrace in a subdivision called Central Park at Lakewood Ranch. Deputies say the 28-year-old woman said she shot her husband, 59-year-old Doug Benefield, during a ‘domestic argument’. Detectives, however, found no evidence that the woman was acting in self-defense when she shot and killed her husband.

“These things take a little bit of time. We really have to look to make sure there is no evidence she had been abused and that just did not exist in this case,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Randy Warren. “We are looking for injuries, we are looking for torn clothing, we are looking for a sign of struggle, things that were inside that residence. We got a warrant, we were able to go in, we were able to examine that closely. There was no evidence there that this was an act of self-defense,” he continued.

The couple was separated and in the middle of a custody battle involving their daughter. Ashley and Doug were the only two at the Lakewood Ranch home when the shooting happened.

Manatee County court records show a list of domestic-related cases going back two years.

“In each of these cases, it did not appear that she was being abused. We could not find anything there that would have led us to arrest her husband for whatever these claims were even some involving their child,” said Warren.

Doug Benefield’s family is thankful an arrest has been made in the case.

“Our family is very thankful. In most cases, the police need witnesses and evidence. In this case, it is all evidence-based. This charge of second-degree murder is all based on nothing but there were only two people in the room, there is no evidence whatsoever, he touched her,” said cousin Tommie Benefield.

Capt. Tommie Benefield says he was the closest relative to Doug. He is remembering him as a loving father, a Navy veteran, and a talented innovator.

“Doug was, caring, kind, sweet, loving,” said Tommie Benefield. “My family and I are very relieved that the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, with nothing but evidence, was able to bring her to this arrest and this second-degree murder charge with the evidence that they had. That gives us some hope for justice that his murder will be accounted for,” said the victim’s cousin.

The 28-year-old is being held without bond. Deputies say the investigation is still ongoing.

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