Testimony: Cop offered friend $2,000 to kill estranged spouse

OREGON CITY, Ore. - The suspected shooter in a convoluted Gladstone murder-for-hire case was denied bail during court proceedings on Thursday.

Susan Ellen Campbell faces charges in the May 28 shooting death of beauty parlor owner Debbie Higbee-Benton.

Judge Kathie Steele told the court that based on the evidence, the "presumption is strong" that Campbell is guilty of killing Higbee-Benton and denied her bail.

But the major development in the hearing was the testimony of Oregon City Police Detective Brad Edwards. He said, "what the investigation unveiled about Susan Campbell's role in the death of Debbie Higbee is that Campbell entered into an agreement to receive $2,000 from Lynn Benton to kill or to have killed Debbie Higbee."

Lynn Benton is a Gladstone Police sergeant and Higbee-Benton's estranged spouse. Gladstone Police said in a press release Thursday that Benton is on administrative leave.

"The City [of Gladstone] has completed an internal investigation into allegations against Lynn Benton unrelated to the criminal investigation regarding the murder of Debbie Higbee," Chief Jim Pryde said. "An employment related due-process hearing for Lynn Benton is set for next Tuesday. City of Gladstone personnel policy prohibits us from discussing details of the internal investigation."

As of Thursday, Benton has not been arrested or charged with a crime.

The complicated case began in May when Higbee-Benton was found shot to death by Benton.

As the investigation developed, police mounted a SWAT raid on Benton's home in Troutdale, where officers had to break down a door to gain entry.

Investigators said Thursday that Benton, who was undergoing gender re-assignment procedures to become a man, offered Campbell $2,000 to kill Higbee-Benton. Court documents also said that Susan Campbell knew details of the killing that had not been made public.

But following the killing, Benton was reportedly unable to get the money for Campbell because it was in a safe deposit box controlled by the now-deceased victim, Debbie Higbee-Benton. She had restricted Benton's access to the box.

Campbell had been described as Benton's "best friend" prior to the crime.

Other details that came out Thursday included testimony indicating that when Benton was informed of the death of Higbee-Benton, he never asked how she died.

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