The Killing of Douglas Benefield Is Being Called the Black Swan Murder — What Happened?

Ashley Benefield is claiming she killed her estranged husband in self-defense, citing battered spouse's syndrome.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jul. 2 2024, Published 2:00 a.m. ET

A friend of Douglas Benefield's set up a memorial website for the father of two after he was murdered in September 2020. On it he described a pious man who loved his family and was a loyal friend to all. Doug was also extremely accomplished, with a degree in biology from Texas A&M University that took him to the Navy where he worked in intelligence, and then to Charleston, S.C. where he owned a restaurant while running a security company. He was also a painter.

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Perhaps it was Doug's Renaissance man lifestyle that attracted Ashley Benefield. The 24-year-old ballerina met the restaurateur when he was 54 and newly widowed. According to CBS News, they were married 13 days after meeting, and four years later, Doug would be dead. What happened to Douglas Benefield? The media is calling it the Black Swan murder.

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What happened to Douglas Benefield? Perhaps he met the wrong woman.

Ashley and Doug were both deeply conservative, which is what initially drew them together. She was a part-time swimsuit model who had dreams of starting her own ballet company, but in the meantime, Ashley was working for Donald Trump's presidential campaign. In her journal, Ashley wrote that Trump referred to her as "his little girl" as well as "his baby." The night she met Doug, Ashely was strapped, with several guns hiding in various places on her body. It was a match made in red-state heaven.

Alice Robb wrote about the couple, and Doug's murder, in a piece for Vanity Fair. She said that within a week, the new couple was already saying "I love you." The first sign that something was a little off came when Doug didn't even tell his 15-year-old daughter Eva that he was married. It's possible he was worried about the teenage girl who just nine months prior found the body of her mother after she died from an undiagnosed heart condition. Still, not sharing the news of his marriage was strange.

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There was only a nine-year difference between Ashley and Eva, who did not get along. Doug wanted Ashley to step into the role of mother but Eva was not receptive to this. It created a lot of tension in the house. What made things worse was Doug's attempt to help Ashley make her dream come true of creating a new, inclusive ballet company.

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Before it could get off the ground, Ashley got pregnant, which meant not being present to greet the new dancers. Pretty soon, the finances around the ballet studio began to crumble. Many of the dancers were not getting paid and Ashley's absence was certainly not helping. At one point during an argument, Doug fired a gun into the ceiling of their home. That and her difficult pregnancy were enough to push Ashley to move home with her mother. She then penned a scathing four-page note to Doug, detailing all the ways he failed her.

Ashley claims she shot and killed Doug in self-defense.

Ashley's behavior grew more erratic as she blamed Doug for the fact that she was forced out of the ballet company. In reality it wasn't working, and she wasn't there to fix things. Soon she was throwing wild accusations around such as accusing Doug of poisoning his first wife and sexually assaulting his daughter. She didn't allow him to see the daughter they shared after she was born until Doug took legal action against her.

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This is also when Ashley claimed that Doug might have been poisoning her when she was pregnant. When her daughter was 3 months old, she and Ashley spent 26 days in a hyperbaric chamber to clear out whatever toxins she thought were in their systems. There were none. Despite all this, they briefly got back together and decided to move to Maryland and start over.

On Sept. 27, 2020, Doug was at Ashley's mother's house in Florida, packing things for the move. Her mother Alicia was planning to join them. While Alicia was taking the baby for a walk, Ashley and Doug allegedly got into a fight which resulted in Doug being shot and killed. Ashley later claimed it was self-defense and is planning on using the "battered-spouse syndrome defense," per COURT TV. As of the time of this writing, no trial date has been scheduled.

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