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Ex-Ballerina's Bitter Custody Battle Turns Deadly

Ashley Benefield, 28, is accused of murdering estranged husband Doug Benefield, 58
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2020 7:44 AM CST

(Newser) – A former professional dancer is accused of fatally shooting her estranged husband after she claimed a domestic violence incident forced her to act in self-defense. A release from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office says the incident took place Sept. 27 in Central Park, Fla., where Ashley Benefield, 28—who was separated from 58-year-old Doug Benefield and fighting him for custody of their daughter—was staying with her mom. Per a police affidavit seen by People, Doug went to visit Ashley that day, and during the visit, Ashley fired four shots: Two bullets went into the wall, one pierced his leg, and one entered his chest. The affidavit notes Ashley ran to a neighbor's house for help and claimed her husband had attacked her. Detectives, however, "found no signs that she had been physically abused," per the sheriff's office release, and no weapons were found on or near her husband.

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Per the affidavit, Doug was apparently shot in the back. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries. The affidavit notes that since Ashley had become pregnant with their child, she'd made multiple allegations against Doug that were later determined to be unfounded. "It appears that the main focus of these complaints was to keep the child away from Douglas," the affidavit reads. The Post and Courier notes the Benefields had once lived in Charleston, SC, and founded the American National Ballet company in 2017. Just months after the company was announced, however, things went south. Ashley moved to Florida, and the company was over by 2018. Per the Bradenton Herald, Ashley has so far refused to give any statement to investigators. She turned herself in to police on Nov. 3 and was charged with second-degree murder. She's currently being held without bail. (Read more murder stories.)

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