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Former Oregon Cop's Murder Conviction In 2011 Death Of His Wife Is Overturned

A lengthy 56-page ruling by the Oregon Court of Appeals concluded that Lynn Benton's conviction in 2016 had relied on a jailhouse informant collaborated too closely with prosecutors and law enforcement officers. 

By Jill Sederstrom
Cops Who Became Cold Blooded Murderers

A former Oregon cop’s murder conviction in the 2011 death of his wife has been overturned by the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Lynn Edward Benton was convicted in 2016 of aggravated murder after his wife Debbie Higbee-Benton was found shot in the back of the head and strangled to death in her Gladstone hair salon on May 28, 2011, according to local station KOIN.

That conviction was overturned Wednesday by an appeals court who ruled that prosecutors had relied too heavily on the use of a jailhouse informant, Oregon Live reports.

According to the lengthy 56-page ruling, the judges felt that at some point the jailhouse informant crossed the line and began to act as a state agent after coming to authorities with the information about the killing.

Tung Yin, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, told Oregon Live the decision should be viewed as a cautionary tale for law enforcement officers.

Lynn Benton

“The lesson would be tread carefully in how you … deal with jailhouse informants because this case tells you if you do what the prosecutors did in this case, that’s too much,” he said, adding he felt the concern was that there had been “too much interaction” between the informant and authorities.

The informant, identified as Travis Layman, had allegedly taken private notes about his conversation with Benton, then spoke to him several times—after meeting with law enforcement officers—to question him about what allegedly happened to fill in holes law enforcement officers had about the case.

The case has is now being sent back to Clackamas County, where Benton was first convicted of aggravated murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy.

The Clackamas County District Attorney’s office has not made any decisions about whether they plan to retry the case or appeal to the state supreme court, KOIN reports.

Oxygen.com also reached out to the district attorney, but did not receive an immediate response.  

Prosecutors believe Benton orchestrated his wife’s killing with two others, his close friend Susan Campbell and her son, Jason Jaynes.

They argued that while Higbee-Benton was at her Gladstone salon, Campbell shot her and had her son finish the job.

According to prosecutors, Benton, who had been a Gladstone Police sergeant at the time, wanted his wife dead because he was afraid she was planning to file a police report against him alleging domestic violence.

Testimony at the trial also suggested that the couple’s relationship began to deteriorate after Benton—who had spent most of his more than two decades in law enforcement as a female— began to transition to a male in 2010. The couple, who had met in 2008, married that same year.

Benton was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He continues to be housed at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility as prosecutors decide their next steps in the case.

Campbell and Jaynes were also convicted for their roles in the slaying. Campbell is currently serving a life sentence while Jaynes will be eligible for parole in 2034.