May 27th, 2014
12:38 PM ET

Inside the Mystery: Randi Kaye on shooting Love & Death in Paradise

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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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. aarontdossey

    Are there any current efforts to revive this reserve and put it back in service? I am a biologist / biochemist / entomologist / entrepreneur and would be happy to help out if I could. Invertebrate.Studies.Institute@gmail.com

    February 28, 2015 at 11:14 pm |
  2. thisaintitcnn

    This is a very very sad story. John was my weight lifting partner when he was in college. We trained together for a couple of years. My fondest memories:
    1. I entered my first bodybuilding show in 1987 and John went with me, even though it was his birthday. He stayed and helped me through the morning show and then made it back home for his birthday.
    2. Going to a halloween party in the Delorean(loved it!)
    3. Our racquetball matches.(He always beat me! Ok I had trouble with left handed players)

    I started searching for him on facebook and then found his story on google, i didn't think it was him until i saw the pics. I'm upset with myself for not keeping up with him, last time i saw him was 1992. He will be missed!!! R.I.P

    from Steve Reid

    August 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
  3. katturet

    Please consider helping Ann Patton (Bender) to appeal her case. All her money was stolen and she is innocent.
    Please read this link.

    June 1, 2014 at 6:49 pm |
  4. susancnninfo

    Cannot believe she was found guilty when the mounds of government corruption were so obvious. Her guilty verdict needs to be overturned. Hope this case gets attention from someone who can help her.

    May 28, 2014 at 12:35 am |
  5. susancnninfo

    Could not believe she was found guilty at second trial. The Prosecutor was out to get her and apparently there was no stopping him. I sure hope this gets the attention it deserves and her conviction is overturned. Very disturbing to see the guilty verdict when the mounds of government corruption were so obvious.

    May 28, 2014 at 12:31 am |
  6. saynitsosimone

    I just saw your story about the Benders, Randi, and was shocked when the last screen came up & Ann had been convicted. I'm concerned about her as well as their menagerie of rescued animals. I agree with the comment before mine, the former trustee rigged the results of the trial. Please provide us with a way to write to Ann Bender?

    May 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
    • kennethspattoniv

      Please contact Ann Bender's Facebook page. I am Ann Bender's brother. I am speaking on her behalf. Feel free to contact me there. Thank you for caring.

      June 1, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
  7. jtoro305

    I just saw this special report. I am from Costa Rica and currently living in Florida. I just moved back to the states from Costa Rica this past November. I honestly think ann Did not do this. Costa rica gov is currupt and I guarantee the prosecuter made the 2nd trial to put her down n jail do that the guy that was running the trust fund ciuld keep tge mo.ey. im sure he got broken off. Next time I visit Cosya Rica I will personally visit Ann at the only woman jail there is the Costa Rica which happens to be 2 blocks from one of my houses. Sad to see someone that was once wealthy got charged for something she did not do. Even john parents said she would do that.

    May 27, 2014 at 10:22 pm |
  8. jonathanjtibbs

    Hi Anderson ... Proud of you !!!

    May 27, 2014 at 8:35 pm |

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