MILWAUKEE (AP) — An Iraq War veteran told detectives that he stalked his wife for several days while she was patrolling the streets of the Milwaukee suburb where she was a police officer, then ambushed her in the early hours of Christmas Eve and killed her, according to prosecutors.
Ben Gabriel Sebena, 30, was charged Thursday with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of his wife, Jennifer Sebena, who was found dead in front of Wauwatosa's fire station by her fellow officers before dawn on Monday. She had been shot five times in the head.
Ben Sebena made an initial court appearance Thursday, and a court commissioner ordered the decorated Marine Corps veteran held on $1 million cash bond. Sebena wasn't required to enter a plea, and his attorney, Michael Steinle, didn't immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Authorities say officers went to check on Jennifer Sebena when she didn't respond to radio calls. She joined the police force two years ago and had been patrolling alone on the night she was killed.
"She was everything I could hope for in a young police officer: intelligent, energetic, willing to be of service and wanting to be a great police officer," Wauwatosa police Chief Barry Weber said at a news conference.
Investigators said they found a number of details tying Ben Sebena to the killing. Surveillance video showed a vehicle that matches his in the area around the time of the shooting, and detectives who searched the couple's home found a gun in the attic that fires ammunition matching the bullet casings found at the scene. They also found Jennifer Sebena's service weapon hidden in the attic.
The investigation began when Ben Sebena called police Monday about 6:30 a.m. asking them to check on his wife's well-being. A police sergeant called him back five minutes later telling him to come to the station because his wife had been involved in an incident.
Ben Sebena didn't ask what happened, the complaint said. Later, when he was told at the station that his wife had been killed, he still didn't ask what happened to her.
During the interview, Ben Sebena "stated that he had been jealous of other men with regards to his wife," the complaint said.
Less than three weeks before she died, Jennifer Sebena told a colleague that her husband had acted violently toward her and put a gun to her head, prosecutors said.
The police chief said he wasn't aware of issues that would have been a cause for concern for Jennifer Sebena's safety.
The state Justice Department is assisting in the investigation. Dave Spakowicz, the director of the department's criminal-investigation operations, said authorities are not speculating on a motive.
While at the police station, officers used video equipment to monitor Ben Sebena as he sat in an empty room. A detective heard him talking to himself, saying something to the effect that his wife had been helping him, adding, "How could I do that to her."
Ben Sebena told investigators he had been stalking his wife for a few days. He said he waited a few hours near the fire department where officers often take breaks, and when he saw her squad car he opened fire. He said she reached for her weapon and he took it from her holster, and then shot her repeatedly in the face.
"Benjamin Sebena stated that he wanted to make sure she was dead so she wouldn't suffer," the complaint said.
Ben Sebena served two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged in 2005 after suffering severe arm and leg injuries in a mortar attack that year. Among the 10 medals or commendations he was awarded were a Purple Heart, a Good Conduct medal and a rifle expert badge.
In a 10-minute video for his church made in 2010, Ben Sebena describes his transformation into a decorated war veteran rediscovered a love of God.
"Before I went in I was pretty much a hippie. I was very laid back but the anger was there — it was just very hidden," he said.
He said he joined the military because he felt unloved and unimportant, and that the Marines helped him centralize the anger, but that the rage persisted even when he returned to the U.S. He said he would ignore red lights and tear down the freeway on his motorcycle at 150 mph.
He also discussed his blossoming relationship with Jennifer, whom he knew from high school and with whom he exchanged emails during his recovery.
"Our love flourished. We became actually infatuated with each other," he said in the video for Elmbrook Church in nearby Brookfield. The church's pastor, Scott Arbeiter, confirmed to The Associated Press that it was Ben Sebena in the video.
Jennifer Sebena's funeral is scheduled for Saturday.
Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.
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