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A former UC Irvine graduate student, Brian Benedict, 40, who shot and killed his ex-wife, Rebecca Clarke, 30, after a dispute over the custody and support of their child was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder.
Three days before Clarke’s murder, a judge ordered Benedict to pay child support during a court hearing and awarded joint custody of the couple’s 4-year-old son, with Clarke getting the majority of the time.
Benedict went home after the hearing and wrote a letter in which he outlined his plans to kill his ex-wife and himself. The note included apologies to his son and to Clarke’s parents. But Benedict moved the note to the trash folder in his email account and never sent it. Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy argued, a murder-suicide plot turned to simply murder once the note was discarded.
About 7 p.m. on the day she died, Clarke came to pick up Aiden after the boy spent the day with his father. Murphy said Benedict likely planned to beat her to death with a hammer, hoping that killing her quietly would give him time to flee. But when Benedict took a swing with the hammer, he only tore out a large chunk of Clarke’s hair, and she ran out of the apartment.
An eyewitness testified that Benedict chased Clarke across the grounds of the complex, firing a .40-caliber Beretta repeatedly and hitting her twice in the back. When Clarke fell to her knees, Murphy said, Benedict walked up and shot her in the face twice.
Benedict’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Bob Mueller, asked the jury to convict on a lesser charge, either second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. The Public Defender argued the case was not about money, but about a severely depressed man who believed his life was crumbling around him. However, this argument did not persuade the jury.
Benedict will face an automatic life prison term with no possibility of parole when he’s sentenced Sept. 12. State law requires that sentence because the jury found Benedict killed Clarke after lying in wait and committed the murder for financial gain. 

Charges of criminal conduct should be taken seriously, and traversed with the help of experienced criminal defense attorneys. If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal conduct, contact the experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorneys at Brower & Associates.

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