Bizarre Murder Case in Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - The mother of a woman who was slain in 2011 sued a former police officer who has been charged with the murder of his estranged wife, claiming the transsexual officer solicited and conspired in the murder.
Irene Berg, mother of the late Deborah Lee Higbee, sued Lynn Edward Benton in Multnomah County Court.
Higbee was found shot and strangled on May 28, 2011 in her Gladstone, Ore., beauty salon.
Benton, a Gladstone police officer and Higbee's estranged husband, was arrested in November 2012 and accused of aggravated murder, according to The Oregonian newspaper.
Benton's alleged co-conspirator, Susan Campbell, was arrested six days after the killing and pleaded guilty in 2012 to attempted aggravated murder and agreed to testify against Benton and a third alleged conspirator - Campbell's own son, according to Oregon news reports.
Benton underwent sex change surgery and became a man in 2009, The Oregonian reported. He married Higbee in 2010. Benton had worked for the Gladstone Police Department for 24 years.
Benton and Higbee originally lived together as a lesbian couple, but Benton's sex change strained the relationship, Higbee's brother told The Oregonian.
In her lawsuit, Higbee's mother claims that Benton "solicited the murder of Ms. Higbee, and conspired with others to do so. Ms. Higbee's death was as a result of the solicitation and conspiracy."
Benton's trial is scheduled for 2015. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Berg seeks $900,000 for wrongful death and loss of consortium. She is represented by Carol Hepburn.