Husband pleads guilty to killing Wauwatosa police officer Jennifer Sebena
Mandatory life sentence; judge could grant chance for supervised release after 20 years
Wounded Iraq war veteran Benjamin Sebena pleaded guilty Wednesday to first-degree intentional homicide for fatally shooting his wife while she was on patrol as a Wauwatosa police officer Christmas Eve.
Jennifer Sebena died from multiple gunshot wounds, some inflicted by her own service weapon after her husband first shot her with his own gun after lying in wait outside a Wauwatosa fire station where his wife was on break.
At his sentencing Aug. 9, Sebena will face life in prison, though Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski could decide to allow Sebena to petition for supervised release as early as 20 years from now.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams said the state had agreed to recommend that Borowski make Sebena eligible to seek release after 50 years. The judge could decide to sentence Sebena to life without any possibility of release.
As he has for all his court appearances, Sebena, 30, again wore a blue, padded suicide prevention gown and was chained into a wheelchair. In a clear and alert voice, he stated and spelled his name, said, "Guilty, your honor," and answered "yes sir" to numerous questions from the judge designed to make sure the plea was being made freely, voluntarily and intelligently.
Sebena's family showed little reaction and declined to speak with reporters after the hearing.
Sebena was charged with first-degree intentional homicide after police say he confessed in detail to the slaying. In March, he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. But after a second forensic psychiatrist agreed that Sebena's mental condition, troubled as it may be, still would not support the plea, his attorney announced last week they would pursue other strategies.
The attorney, Michael Steinle, also had sought to suppress statements Sebena made to Wauwatosa police during the first hours into their investigation of Jennifer Sebena's death, arguing that Sebena's rights to remain silent or have an attorney were not read to him. The judge ruled Sebena was not in custody during those talks, and Miranda warnings were not required. Sebena's confession came two days later, after he had been arrested and read his rights.
Steinle said in court Wednesday that he expects to have the forensic psychiatrist he hired to examine Sebena testify at sentencing.
Iraq War veteran
A decorated Marine, Sebena was part of the invasion force at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. He returned in the fall of 2004 and was sent to Ramadi.
"We were trained to kill," he says in a YouTube video made for a 2010 Christian men's conference.
"We were trained death is OK. Wasn't trained to deal with death, but we're definitely trained to kill."
In the video, Sebena claims to have killed a child in self-defense and to have watched 50 friends die in combat. He displays ropes of scar tissue that mar his knees, chest and shoulder — wounds he suffered during a mortar attack that killed a friend in February 2005.
"I've been into the dark places," he says.
Jennifer Sebena's death was later the subject of a brief controversy over whether she should be named on a wall memorializing law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The group that maintains the wall in Washington, D.C., at first said she would not be included because her death resulted from domestic violence. But after protests, Sebena's name was added.