By Neal Putnam
A judge has refused to lower the $1 million bail set for a gay man charged with stab-bing his husband to death on Jan. 1 in their Downtown apartment.
Terry Ray Benson, 27, is accused of killing Navy Hospital Corpsman James Leslie Hearn, 28, with a knife. Hearn listed his nickname as “Dizzy” on his Facebook page, and the couple were married Aug. 22, 2015.
Benson’s attorney, Ashby Sorensen, asked San Diego Superior Court Judge Maureen Hallahan to reduce the bail to $100,000 on Jan. 17.
“There’s no doubt it’s a domestic dispute,” Sorensen said. “He’s not a danger to the community. He has a lot of friends.
“He’s not a flight risk,” she continued, adding that it is not in his character to run away from problems. Sorensen said there had been a struggle and that his client was in “a chokehold.” He also said there was a history of domestic violence from the vic-tim, calling it “a tragic situation.”
Deputy District Attorney Amy Colby agreed it was a domestic violence case, but Ben-son told police several different versions of what happened.
Colby said Benson originally told police his husband fell on a knife; about 1 1/2-hours later, Benson said his husband had possession of the knife. When he was re-interviewed later, Benson claimed Hearn had him in a chokehold.
“The story has changed significantly,” Colby said.
The prosecutor said Benson stabbed Hearn in the chest. She acknowledged they were a same-sex couple.
The defense attorney countered that Benson’s statements changed when he learned what happened and that Hearn was dead.
Hallahan said she had read a number of character letters recommending a lower bail.
“You have a world of support behind you,” she said, alluding to family members in the audience and elsewhere.
Regardless, the judge said she didn’t see any change in current circumstances that would warrant lowering bail. She was the same judge who set bail at $1 million when Benson was arraigned before her on Jan. 4. She added she would keep the letters in his file should another judge consider lowering the bail.
A preliminary hearing was set for April 5. Benson has pleaded not guilty and re-mains in the central jail.
Hearn’s funeral was in Newport News, Virginia, which is his hometown. According to his obituary, he was buried with full military honors at the A.G. Horton Memorial Veteran’s Cemetery in Suffolk, Virginia.
—Neal Putnam is a local freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.