Editor's Note: In 'Love & Death in Paradise,' Randi Kaye tells the story of the mysterious death of John Bender in one of the world's most lush and beautiful rain forests. For ac360.com, Randi tells the inside story of reporting from this unique location.
We flew over it before we got inside it. Imagine, an 80,000 square foot home perched high above the Pacific Ocean. It is nestled into 5000 acres in the middle of the Costa Rica rain forest. It’s made of steel and cement, and designed by a man named John Bender. He died inside this home years ago and his wife is now on trial for killing him. We spent several days inside this home and on the property with Ann Bender. She is on trial now for a second time, accused of murdering her husband in the dead of night here in their home. It was supposed to be their paradise, their future, but their lives took a terrible turn. Walking the property you can imagine what their life once was. There are beautiful gardens filled with orchids and incredible indigenous plants. There are also some monkeys, left over from the animals that were part of this refuge. The Benders lived with a three-toed sloth named Lili, and a wild black hawk named Toth. They even had a pet Jaguarundi. Armed guards walk the property that is also filled with some of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. The home was just as incredible from the ground as we expected it would be seeing it from the air. We came here to try and find out more about what really happened the night John Bender died from a single gunshot to the head. Was it murder or suicide? Hope you’ll tune into our special tonight called “Love and Death in Paradise.” It airs tonight. I hope you’ll find it as unforgettable as we all did while shooting this special hour for CNN.
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