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Gladstone murder-for-hire case leads to $900K lawsuit

Slain hair-salon owner Deborah Higbee Benton’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the former Gladstone police officer charged in her daughter’s murder.

Sgt. Lynn Edward Benton is accused of murdering Higbee Benton on May 28, 2011, at a time when the two had been married seven months but had not been living together for about a month.

Irene Berg, 70, of Walnut Creek, Calif., filed the lawsuit on the morning of May 27 on behalf of her daughter’s estate in Multnomah County Circuit Court. Asking for $900,000 in damages, the complaint states Higbee Benton’s death “caused the loss of society, companionship and services to her surviving mother.” It goes on to say the actions of Lynn Benton caused Higbee Benton “extreme mental and physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.”

Sgt. Benton is accused of conspiring to have Higbee Benton killed and offering to pay two others to carry out the murder. Higbee Benton was found dead in her Gladstone beauty salon beaten, shot and strangled in a grisly scene that one official described the attack as “kill, kill and overkill.”

“We believe Deborah suffered a great deal at the time of her death,” said Carol Hepburn, Berg’s Portland attorney. “Her mother continues to suffer from the loss of her daughter. Irene Berg is at an age when a mother would rely on her daughter for support and guidance.”

Hepburn, a former King County prosecutor who specializes in representing crime victims, said the jurors will be asked to award the amount they feel is appropriate after hearing the evidence.