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Sebena changes plea to insanity defense in Wauwatosa killing of wife

Trial scheduled for July, with other appearances next month

March 5, 2013

Iraq war veteran Benjamin Sebena, accused in the shooting death of his wife, Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena, on Christmas Eve morning, changed his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Sebena, appearing at a hearing Friday, made his plea through defense attorney Michael Steinle.

His change of plea was expected. He has confessed to the killing, and his defense reportedly may involve the role of post-traumatic stress disorder in his life.

Judge David Borowski assigned Robert Rawski, a forensic psychiatrist, to examine Sebena. He set a deadline of April 1 for an expected defense motion and April 15 for a reply by the prosecution. He also scheduled a hearing on the doctor's report for April 26 at 1:30 p.m.

The judge ordered the case to be scheduled for a jury trial, with a final pre-trial and motion hearing on June 7 at 8:30 a.m. and a jury trial scheduled for July 8 at 8:30 a.m.

Sebena, who appeared in court with a fresh haircut, wearing a padded, anti-suicide vest and bound to a wheelchair, had discussed his war experiences in a 2010 video made for Elmbrook Church.

"My experiences in Iraq were … having to watch over 50 of my friends, that are good friends, die. Having to kill people, having to kill a child, who tried to kill me. I was a marine, and we're trained to kill, we're trained that death is OK. I wasn't trained how to deal with the death, but definitely trained to kill," he said in the video.

He said when he returned from Iraq, "I was scared out of my mind, and I was angry all the time."

He described the 2005 explosion of a mortar round in Iraq that killed a man he was with and injured him and half a dozen others. Sebena's injuries were severe.

He built a relationship with Jennifer as he recovered. They married and he experienced a rededication to his faith.

Later, he started a veterans support group.

"The only person who can relate to a combat veteran is another combat veteran," he said. "I've been there, I've done that, I've been to the same places as them, I've been to the dark places, and I want to bring them to the light."

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