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A former professional ballet dancer has been accused of fatally shooting her estranged husband in Florida amid a custody battle over their daughter, police recently said.
Ashley Benefield, 28, was charged on Nov. 5 with second-degree murder for shooting her estranged husband, 59-year-old Doug Benefield, twice just before 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., police said in a press release last week.
Ashley Benefield (Manatee County Sheriff)
The couple was living separately and was embroiled in a custody battle over their daughter at the time, police said. Doug Benefield had gone to the home where Ashley Benefield was staying at the time and they were the only people inside the home when the shots were fired, police said.
Doug Benefield was rushed to an area hospital but could not be saved.
Multiple reports describe Doug and Ashley Benefield as being active in the ballet scene and with the American National Ballet. A post on the American National Ballet Facebook page describes Ashley Benefield as "a proud Maryland Youth Ballet graduate and retired professional ballerina."
Ashley Benefield allegedly told police her husband was “attacking her,” but detectives found no evidence to indicate she was acting in self-defense, police said.
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A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told local news station WFLA investigators wanted to make sure there was “no evidence she had been abused.”
“That just did not exist in this case,” said spokesperson Randy Warren, according to the report. “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.”
Ashley Benefield turned herself in to Manatee County Jail on Nov. 4. Police said the case is still being investigated.
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