By DINESH RAMDE
MILWAUKEE (AP) – An Iraq War veteran charged with killing his wife, a suburban Milwaukee police officer, on Christmas Eve pleaded not guilty Thursday during a brief hearing that provided no hint of the defense his attorney plans to mount.
Ben Sebena, 30, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting death of Jennifer Sebena, also 30. He was brought into court in a wheelchair and wearing a padded blue suicide-prevention vest. He sat in silence as defense attorney Michael Steinle entered the plea on his behalf.
Sebena has said little since he was arrested Dec. 24. He barely spoke at a preliminary hearing earlier this month, and his attorney and family have repeatedly declined requests for comment. There has been no mention of mental-health issues or post-traumatic stress disorder during any of his brief court appearances.
A trial date will be set at a hearing on March 1.
Both Steinle and Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams declined to comment after the hearing.
Jennifer Sebena had been found dead of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, including wounds inflicted with her own police firearm.
Prosecutors say Ben Sebena acknowledged ambushing his wife while she conducted a pre-dawn patrol alone in Wauwatosa. He told investigators he was a jealous husband, according to the criminal complaint, but police haven’t speculated on a motive.
Jennifer Sebena had told a colleague a few weeks earlier that her husband had acted violently toward her and put a gun to her head, prosecutors said.
Other Wauwatosa police officers first suspected something was wrong on Dec. 24 when Jennifer Sebena failed to respond to radio calls. They found her body near a fire department where officers frequently take their breaks.
A police sergeant called Ben Sebena and told him to come to the station because his wife had been in an incident, but Sebena didn’t ask for details, the complaint said. Later, when he was told his wife had been killed, he still didn’t ask what happened to her.
Detectives who searched the couple’s home found a gun that fires ammunition matching the bullet casings found at the scene. They also found Jennifer Sebena’s service weapon stashed in the attic.
Ben Sebena, who was ordered held on $1 million cash bail, 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.
Milwaukee County authorities have said it’s standard procedure for inmates on suicide watch to be wheeled into court, and that Sebena’s wheelchair has nothing to do with his war injuries.