LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. — 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.
The couple lived apart and were 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,” FOX reported.
Meet our founder and Executive Director, Ashley Benefield, a proud Maryland Youth Ballet graduate and retired…
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.
A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told WFLA that 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.”
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, WFAL reported.
“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.
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.
Ashley Benefield turned herself in to Manatee County Jail on Nov. 4. Police said the case is still being investigated.