Did Wall Street millionaire kill himself or was it murder?

Posted at 9:40 PM, Feb 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-10 21:40:02-05

Did Wall Street millionaire John Bender shoot himself or was he murdered in his 50,000-square-foot home in Costa Rica? His wife, Ann Bender, was tried twice and convicted once of killing him, but that case was later overturned on an appeal. Then she faced a third trial for the same crime, and "48 Hours" was there for the dramatic twist in a case that has generated international intrigue.

Ann Bender opens up to Susan Spencer about her husband, the trials and more in an updated edition of “48 Hours: Paradise Lost” to be broadcast Saturday at 10 p.m.

John Bender was found dead in the bedroom with his wife next to him. They had moved to Central America to live a dream, and spent part of his fortune creating a nature sanctuary there, including a home without walls. The dream turned into a nightmare on Jan. 8, 2010, when Bender died from a bullet wound to the back of his head. Ann Bender said her husband was trying to kill himself.

John and Ann Bender

John and Ann Bender

“I saw the outline of the gun…and he had it pointed at his head,” Ann Bender previously told "48 Hours." “He was going to die that night no matter what.”

“Paradise Lost” is the story of a married couple that seemingly had it all. They shared a love of nature, but they also shared a common struggle with severe depression. John Bender’s search for a safe haven and purpose for his life didn’t turn out as expected, despite efforts to improve the area around him. As a couple, they became very isolated, in spite of what they did for the community. They were not entirely welcome by the locals. Likewise, there are allegations that the trustee of the Bender’s $100 million fortune siphoned money from the trust, adding another element to the investigation.

Why would he kill himself – or was it murder?

Prosecutors in Costa Rica maintained John Bender was murdered. However, in 2014, "48 Hours" brought in an independent forensic team, Richard and Selma Eikelenboom, to the house where John Bender died. After examining the evidence, the experts said there were problems with the conclusion by the prosecution.

In a legal twist, Bender’s defense team saw the Eikelenbooms on "48 Hours" and then hired them for her third trial.

“I tried to stop him,” Ann Bender previously told "48 Hours," “and I’ve been accused of killing him.”