December 10, 2012

Stalking suspect chooses to remain in custody till trial

Police say Benjamin Lee drove past his estranged wife's Maine home with guns, a machete, duct tape, handcuffs and plastic bags in his car.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – A Missouri man who is accused of driving to Maine with a vehicle full of weapons to track down and kill his estranged wife was far less mobile Monday as he left U.S. District Court in custody, using a walker to keep himself upright.

Benjamin Lee, 52, had waived his right to a detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich III and agreed to be held in federal custody until his trial on two counts of interstate stalking.

Lee was brought before Rich on Monday for two hearings, one on whether there was probable cause to bring the federal charges and the second, the detention hearing, to determine whether he would seek to be released on bail.

Asked by the judge whether he was sure he wanted to waive his right to a detention hearing, Lee said, "That's fine, sir."

"I don't want to go back to where I came from," Lee said. "I came out here looking to re-establish myself."

Prosecutors say Lee's intention in coming to Maine on Sept. 7 was to track down his wife, who had left him in April, and her new partner at their home in Limerick.

FBI Agent Patrick Clancy testified during the probable cause hearing, answering questions about an affidavit he filed seeking the charges against Lee.

Clancy testified that Lee's wife learned from his sister that he possibly was headed to Maine "to harm her."

In his affidavit, Clancy wrote that Lee's estranged wife first contacted police at 10:57 a.m. on Sept. 7, expressing concern that Lee had threatened her and was on his way to Maine.

She called 911 at 7:07 p.m. on the same day to report that Lee was driving past her house in a white Cadillac, possibly with a gun, the affidavit says.

Clancy said police stopped Lee in his Cadillac near his estranged wife's home. Lee told them he had come to Maine unannounced, that he was familiar with the layout of his wife's house from his Internet research, and that he had many weapons in his car and a handgun in the trunk.

"There were five guns," Clancy said.

Clancy said Lee's estranged wife sought a restraining order on the morning of Sept. 7, but the order was denied. After Lee arrived, the restraining order was granted, he said.

Clancy testified that he had copies of hundreds of emails between Lee and his estranged wife. "Not every email had threatening language," Clancy said. "They were largely emails from him, but there were emails from her expressing a desire to be left alone."

Lee's attorney, James Clifford, questioned whether Clancy was aware that Lee was disabled, had undergone back surgery and had overdosed on insulin in Missouri.

Clancy said he was unaware of those details.

Lee has been in state custody since his arrest on Sept. 7.

Appearing disheveled and unshaven in an orange prison uniform, he struggled to stand at the beginning of Monday's hearing and leaned on a table with his arms to support himself. After standing for about a minute, Lee asked the judge for permission to sit.

The judge ruled that probable cause exists for the charges. He ordered Lee to have a mental examination to determine his competency.

 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@mainetoday.com

 

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