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Jury finds UCI grad student guilty of killing ex-wife

The UC Irvine graduate student accused of shooting and killing his ex-wife outside of his campus apartment was found guilty in Orange County Superior Court Thursday.

Brian Hughes Benedict, 40, was found guilty of one felony count of special-circumstances murder for financial gain and lying in wait with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death, according to a press release issued by the District Atty.'s Office.

Benedict faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole, the release stated.

The jury found Benedict guilty of chasing Rebecca Clarke, 30, from his apartment on the UCI campus by swinging a hammer at her head and then shooting her in the face in September 2009, when she went to pick up the couple's 4-year-old son, the release stated.

Benedict then grabbed his son and put the boy in the car, but was restrained by neighbors before he could leave, the release stated.

As the trial began on Tuesday, prosecutor Matt Murphy pointed out that days before the killing, a family court judge ruled that Benedict had to pay Clarke more than $900 in monthly child support instead of the $200 he sought.

The trial focused more on Benedict's motivation than the facts of the case, lawyers for both sides said.

"The fact that Brian Benedict killed her is not in dispute," public defender Bob Mueller said in court Tuesday. "What the facts mean is what this trial is all about."

Benedict is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 12 in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.

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