Former Ballet Dancer Charged with Fatally Shooting Estranged Husband

Ashley Benefield was charged with second-degree murder on Nov. 4 for the shooting of Doug Benefield

Ashley Benefield
Ashley Benefield. Photo: Manatee County Sheriff's Office

Ashley Benefield — the founder of the now-defunct American National Ballet in Charleston, South Carolina — has been arrested and charged with murder in connection to the fatal shooting of her estranged husband.

The former ballet dancer, 28, was charged with second-degree murder on Nov. 4 for fatally shooting Doug Benefield, 58, during an argument, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The incident occurred around 7 p.m. on Sept. 27 at a residence belonging to Ashley's mother in Central Park, Florida, authorities said in a press release. At the time, the couple were separated, living apart and "in the midst of a custody battle involving their daughter."

Doug was visiting Ashley at her mom's home when she fired multiple shots at him, officials said.

Ashley then ran to a neighbor's house for help, according to a police affidavit filed in court.

Responding deputies found Doug alive in a bedroom with two gunshot wounds, one in his leg and another in his chest, the bullet also grazed his right arm, the criminal complaint alleges. Two additional bullets were found embedded in the wall, along with four casings from a .45 caliber handgun.

Doug was transported to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said that Ashley claimed Doug was attacking her during the incident, but "detectives found no evidence that she was acting in self-defense when she fired multiple shots at her husband."

"Based on entry wounds on Douglas it does not appear that he was facing Ashley when she began shooting. It also does not appear that Douglas had taken any kind of defensive of combative stance," an affidavit obtained by PEOPLE reads. "Douglas was not found to have any weapons on his person or near him."

The police affidavit, obtained by PEOPLE, also alleges investigators did not observe any injuries on Ashley, apart from an "old and very minor" scratch that a witness told authorities she had obtained prior to the shooting.

"During this investigation, it was found that since the time Ashley found out she was pregnant with the child that she and Douglas share she has made several allegations against Douglas," the affidavit reads. "While looking into the outcomes of the numerous cases it was found that they had never resulted in criminal charges and furthermore closed as unfounded."

"It appears that the main focus of these complaints was to keep the child away from Douglas," the affidavit continues.

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The police affidavit alleges that Ashley previously filed an injunction against her husband in an attempt to keep the child away from him, but the judge overseeing the case "openly advised that she did not find Ashley's story to possess a 'scintilla of truth,' " and ordered that Douglas have visitation rights.

"At this point, it appeared Ashley had exhausted all legal means to keep the child away from Douglas before the shooting," the affidavit reads.

Ashley is currently being held in police custody without bail.

An attorney for Ashley did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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