MILWAUKEE (AP) — An Iraq War veteran charged with ambushing his wife Christmas Eve as she worked as a Milwaukee-area police officer told investigators he shot her in the head repeatedly because he didn't want her to suffer before she died.
Benjamin Gabriel Sebena, 30, acknowledged to detectives that he was a jealous husband, police said. Still, they declined to speculate on a motive for the killing, saying Thursday their probe was ongoing.
Investigators said Ben Sebena told them he had been stalking his wife, Jennifer Sebena, 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 rushed her and opened fire. They said when the officer reached for her weapon, her husband grabbed it from her holster and used it to shoot her three or four times in the face.
"Benjamin Sebena stated that he wanted to make sure she was dead so she wouldn't suffer," the criminal complaint said.
He was charged Thursday with first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Jennifer Sebena, who was also 30. During a brief court appearance, Ben Sebena was ordered held on $1 million cash bond. He wasn't required to enter a plea, and his attorney, Michael Steinle, didn't immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
Two hours after Jennifer Sebena was found dead, police monitored her husband on closed-circuit TV as he stood in an empty room at the police station. A detective heard Ben Sebena ask himself "How could I do that to her," after all the help she gave him, the criminal complaint said.
Officers went to check on Jennifer Sebena about 4:30 a.m. Monday after she didn't respond to radio calls. Sebena, who joined the Wauwatosa police force two years ago, was 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 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 near 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.
Jennifer Sebena told a colleague earlier this month 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, and the director of the department's criminal investigation operations, Dave Spakowicz, said authorities are not speculating on what motivated the shooting.
Ben Sebena served two tours in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. He was honorably discharged in 2005 after suffering severe arm and leg injuries in a mortar attack that year. The 10 medals or commendations he was awarded include 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 described his transformation from an angry teen into a decorated war veteran who rediscovered his faith in 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 even though the Marines helped him centralize the anger, the rage persisted 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.