GRESHAM, Ore -- A detective testifying during a bail hearing Thursday said he believes a Gladstone police sergeant was involved in the murder of her estranged spouse last May at a hair salon.
The bail hearing was being held for 53-year old Susan Campbell, the woman accused of killing Deborah Lee Higbee-Benton. The Gladstone hair dresser was found dead on May 28th and according to court papers, Campbell confessed.
Background: Suspect confesses to Gladstone murder
But even after that confession, multiple police sources indicated that investigators were taking a close look at Sgt. Lynne Benton after the death of her spouse. They were investigating a possible murder plot in which the sergeant hired Campbell, who was her best friend, to kill Higbee-Benton.
Sgt. Benton's Oregon driver's license lists the gender as male, although Lynne was born as a woman. In court Thursday, Benton was referred to as both "she" and "he" and Higbee-Benton was described as the sergeant's estranged wife.
During testimony Thursday, detective Brad Edwards, with the Oregon City Police Bureau, said that Sgt. Benton offered $2,000 to have her estranged wife killed.
"Lynne Benton had wanted this done a substantial time before and was actually getting irritated that Debbie Higbee had not been killed any sooner," Edwards testified.
Defense attorneys questioned the proof to back up those allegations. They said there was no record of a $2,000 money transfer and the detective testified that investigators were still reviewing bank records.
Edwards also testified that the suspected motive in the murder plot had to do with Benton's job as a police sergeant. He said that Benton abused her wife and was concerned that if allegations of domestic violence went public, she could get fired.
Higbee-Benton was severely beaten and shot to death. The medical examiner described the violent murder as "kill, kill and overkill."
Sgt. Benton has been on bereavement leave since the murder. She has not been arrested but is the target of a criminal investigation. Gladstone Police Chief James Pryde said he could not comment on the case, due to personnel matters.
Neighbors said Campbell knew the victim and also cared for Sgt. Benton’s mother. The judge denied bail for Campbell Thursday.