WARNING: Details in this story may not be suitable for all readers.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — When Susan Behny’s jailers bring her into Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent’s courtroom, she arrives in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank attached.
She wasn’t in that condition on Nov. 7 or Nov. 8, when someone took a 12-gauge shotgun and pumped birdshot into her husband’s head as he lay in his bed. The 74-year-old was found around 1:30 p.m. Nov. 8 in his bedroom at 3633 Turf Lane on the city’s southwest side, a homicide that unnerved neighbors.
Behny faces a charge of murder and a sentence enhancement for using a firearm in the shooting death of her husband. Her trial is being held in Allen Superior Court this week.
For about a month after Kenneth Behny was killed, his wife split her time between her daughter, Mindy Lunz, and son, Jim Behny, according to testimony at the trial.
Then she was admitted to the Ashton Creek Nursing Home near Parkview Regional Medical Center, where she stayed as a Medicare patient until she was arrested in April, charged with the murder of her husband.
Susan is now being held at the Allen County Jail due to the extensive nursing requirements that go beyond what the department’s medical provider offers. There was some disagreement at court Wednesday as to whether Susan, who has an unnatural pallor and a breathing tube in her nose, could get herself to the bathroom and shower on her own.
However, Brittany Bracey, her social worker at Ashton Creek, said Susan, now 75, had no cognitive problems, spoke little of the tragedy, and appeared physically able to take care of herself. At the trial, some of her movements were normal and she occasionally leaned toward her attorney and smiled.
When Bracey asked her about her husband’s homicide, Susan told her “they didn’t find the gun.”
Jurors will have to decide whether Susan Behny was capable of handling a shotgun and blasting pellets into her prone husband. Kenneth Behny had warned at least two people that if anything ever happened to him it would be “that b—-,” referring to Susan. They slept in separate bedrooms and both walked with a cane.
When the shotgun blast went off, Behny told lead detective Brian Martin she thought it was her husband’s cane that had fallen. According to a probable cause affidavit written by homicide detective Ben MacDonald, Susan made strange utterances after a neighbor called 9-1-1 and police arrived. Those utterances included that she didn’t kill her husband, nor did she murder him.
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At Kenneth’s funeral, she was lively and wore makeup, something her daughter, Mindy Lunz, corroborated on the stand.
But the day of the killing, Lunz, through tears and tissues, said her mother called to say: “Your dad’s dead. I think he was murdered.” Lunz could only recall a shotgun being in the house when she was a kid. When her mother came for birthday parties or out to dinner, she walked very slowly, she added. Kenneth did the grocery shopping for the two after Susan gave him a list.
Afterwards, Lunz described her mother as “heartbroken, shocked” and Susan “wondered how anyone could do such a thing.”
During the investigation, police searched the Behny home and the home of their son, Jim Behny, and never found a weapon, Martin testified. No evidence tied Susan to her husband’s homicide except that no one else appeared to have entered the home that night and early morning and Martin found no evidence of the home being broken into or burgled. In fact, Martin thought the scene had been “staged,” according to the probable cause affidavit.
Criminal defense attorney Anthony Churchward asked Zent to dismiss the case on the basis that the evidence was all circumstantial – no DNA, no evidence of fingerprints, no evidence of a shotgun and no cell phone evidence since Susan Behny had the old style flip phone with few calls or even texts.
Even the life insurance policy through Colonial Penn was only worth $3,000, Martin said.
But there was a bruise under the bicep and tricep of Susan’s left arm that could indicate she used a shotgun, Martin said. Bruises occur often when people fire guns and in no particular corporal locations.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. Then it’s up to the jury to decide whether Susan Behny is guilty as charged.