Murder charge for UCI student

Editor's note: This corrects the name of Verano Place.

NEWPORT BEACH — Prosecutors have enough evidence to put a UC Irvine graduate school student on trial for the shooting death of his ex-wife on campus last summer, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.

Brian Hughes Benedict, 36, is charged with murder with enhancements for allegedly killing his ex-wife, Rebecca Clarke, 30, with a firearm, doing it for money and lying in wait to commit the act.

In his preliminary hearing at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, Irvine police described how on Sept. 13, 2009, Benedict waited inside his on-campus apartment with a hammer to kill Clarke, who was there to pick up their son, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Keith Bogardus. Authorities claim he sneaked up behind her and hit her with the hammer, chasing her out of the house, Bogardus said.

Clarke had full custody of their 4-year-old son, who was visiting his father in UCI's Verano Place housing for grad students. He had talked to police a week before the incident about his custody situation, officials said. He was also paying a significant amount of child support, at least more than he claimed he could afford in divorce court, according to media reports.

Benedict was working toward his graduate degree in physics. Clarke had graduated from the university in 2004.

Police said that after Benedict attacked her with the hammer, he chased her outside and shot at her as she ran through a parking lot, hitting her at least once. Residents reported hearing two distinct bursts of gunfire.

Clarke was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital and witnesses detained Benedict until police arrived. He had put his son in his car and the residents thought he was trying to get away. It's not clear whether the boy saw his mother killed.

It remains the only shooting death ever on UCI's campus.

Benedict is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Oct. 12. He's being held without bail.

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