Court upholds murder conviction of reserve officer who killed estranged wife

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A court upheld the murder conviction of a former reserve police officer who shot and killed his estranged wife.

In a ruling Wednesday, the Indiana Court of Appeals cited the “indifference” of Benjamin Hankins regarding the suffering and imminent death of his wife, Lisa “Nettie” Hankins. He shot and killed her during an argument on June 3, 2011 at his Harrison Township home in Delaware County.

A jury found Hankins guilty of murder in April 2012. He was sentenced to 64 years in prison.

Hankins’ defense team appealed the ruling, arguing that jurors should not have heard testimony from a social worker who recalled comments from the couple’s 4-year-old daughter. The girl was was outside when her father shot her mother.

She recalled hearing her father yell for Nettie Hankins to “lay [sic] down and die” and remembered seeing her father covered in blood. She told the social worker that she was scared and that “she cried (and) was shaking.”

Hankins said his prison term was unreasonable and that the court abused its power by considering “aggravating factors that were not supported by the record.”

The appeals court rejected those arguments, saying Hankins shot his estranged wife multiple times “within earshot of their daughter” and then left her bleeding on the floor for nearly 20 minutes before calling 911.

Hankins said during the trial that his wife had gone for a gun and that he’d shot her in self-defense. Nettie Hankins filed for divorce in September 2010 and began dating another man the following month. The divorce sent Hankins into a tailspin, and he “sent her a number of angry text messages” and told her that a “day of reckoning (was) coming.”

After he shot his wife, Hankins didn’t attempt to perform CPR even after being instructed to do so by a dispatcher. He had received first aid training as part of his work as a reserve police officer, the court’s opinion noted.

Hankins said “as he knelt next to Nettie on the floor after shooting her, she grabbed his arm and asked him to help her.” The court said his refusal to do so proved his indifference toward her “imminent” death.

The appeals court upheld the murder conviction in a 3-0 decision.