Posted For: Willie Wonka
A mom of three was executed in front of her kids less than 24 hours after her estranged husband was sprung from jail on no bail over a caught-on-camera beatdown she’d posted to her Facebook page in a desperate plea for help.
The shocking case — in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s western New York hometown — has sparked fresh outrage to New York’s no-cash-bail laws and to the governor and fellow Democrats for refusing to repeal them.
Adam Bennefield, 45, who has a prior conviction for kidnapping another ex at gunpoint, is now charged with shooting dead his 30-year-old wife, Keaira Bennefield.
The victim was taking her young children — ages 6 months to 9 years — to school on the morning of Oct. 5, when he ambushed her on a road and gunned her down, authorities said.
Bennefield was free to carry out the alleged murder after being released from custody a day earlier on only misdemeanor charges despite the horrific attack on his wife inside her home.
Tragic Keaira Bennefield had shared the sick footage of Bennefield allegedly punching, kicking and slapping her on Facebook in a cry for help less than a week before she was murdered.
Now, in the weeks since the grim slaying questions have continued to mount as to whether more could have been done to prevent Keaira’s demise.
The ordeal first erupted back on Sept. 28 when Keaira called 911 to say she’d been punched by Bennefield in her home, the Buffalo News reported.
Cheektowaga Police responded to the domestic violence call and obtained an arrest warrant for Bennefield for harassment. Cops noted that Keaira didn’t need to be hospitalized for treatment and told her to call if her estranged husband returned to the home.
The mom posted the disturbing video, which was captured on surveillance cameras inside her home, later that evening with the harrowing message: “This is what this man dose [sic] to me but i’m always treated like i’m the abuser!”
The nearly eight-minute video allegedly showed Bennefield tackling his wife, pinning her down and savagely punching her repeatedly.
Bennefield was arrested over the attack a week later after Keaira showed the footage to cops.
But despite the shocking beatdown, Bennefield was only hit with a string of misdemeanor charges, including third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree menacing and second-degree unlawful imprisonment.
He was arraigned in Cheektowaga Town Court on Oct. 4 but was released because state law prevented the judge from setting bail due to the low-level of the charges, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said.
“There was zero evidence for anything higher than that,” Flynn said of the misdemeanor charges. “The charges were correctly charged. The judge had no choice but to release this person.”
Adding insult to injury, under the bail reforms enacted by the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and upheld by Hochul, the judge couldn’t even consider Bennefield’s 2000 conviction and 15-year prison sentence for kidnapping an ex-girlfriend and another woman at gunpoint because the Empire State is one of the few across the US that doesn’t allow judges to weigh the “dangerousness” of a perp in considering bail.
Even if Bennefield was charged with a bail eligible offense, the judge still couldn’t consider dangerousness under the current laws. Mayor Eric Adams is among those who have pushed Albany lawmakers to give judges the power to remand suspects deemed a threat to the community and not just whether they are likely to return to the next court date.
The subsequent order of protection that was issued by the judge in Keaira’s case did nothing of the sort.
The following morning, Keaira was so scared for her life that she reportedly donned a bulletproof vest and set off on the school run. As she drove the kids to school, her estranged husband allegedly crashed into her vehicle, pulled out a shotgun, fired the fatal blast and then fled.
He was nabbed a week later after a widespread manhunt and has been held without bail ever since. Bennefield, who is due in court again Wednesday, pleaded not guilty to murder, aggravated criminal contempt and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child during his Oct. 21 arraignment.
After the arraignment, DA Flynn called for the bail law to be amended so a judge can consider dangerousness.
“This could easily be solved with one sentence in the bail law. You don’t have to throw it all out the window,” Flynn told reporters.
“I was an advocate of bail reform initially. I still am an advocate for the majority parts of the bail reform law. I believe the law went too far. I believe that provisions need to be made to the law.”
State Sen. Edward Rath, a Republican whose new district includes part of Buffalo and Western New York, ripped the current bail laws.
“The judge had to release her [alleged] killer Adam Bennefield because there was no dangerous standard to detain him,” Rath told The Post.
“She predicted her husband would kill her. She wore a bulletproof vest. It’s absolutely disgusting.”
Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin pinned the blame on his opponent, Gov. Kathy Hochul, for not stepping up to repeal cashless bail laws.
“Kathy Hochul claims she needs more ‘data’ to repeal cashless bail and give judges discretion to weigh dangerousness,” Zeldin said in a statement at the time. “The reality is that there is a ton of data, and behind these data points are victims.”
He added: “In this case, three kids are going to grow up without a mother, because she was just murdered on a Wednesday by someone released from custody the day before due to cashless bail.
“The judge did not have discretion to weigh dangerousness and keep the suspect detained. Hochul’s pandering to her pro-criminal allies just cost three kids a mother.”
Domestic violence advocates agreed that judges should be able to weigh a pattern of related violence in deciding to set bail.
“We’re seeing very serious problems now with the way, not just courts but prosecutors’ offices, are handling domestic violence cases and this has been complicated by some unintended consequences of criminal justice reforms sadly,” Dorchen Leidholdt, director of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families, told The Post.
“I know a lot of leading domestic violence organizations advocated a different standard for bail so judges could take dangerousness in the context of domestic violence into consideration, lethality in the context of domestic violence into consideration and did not succeed in that reform.
“So the result is that domestic violence victims are left under protected in New York state and are at the mercy of their abusers at a time when we’re seeing heightened instances of domestic violence, a high degree of danger in domestic violence cases.”
Leidholdt, who said the women at greatest risk in intimate-partner homicides are those of color, added the “system failed” Keaira.