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Murder case takes page out of the movies

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 11:32 a.m.

The Fayette County murder case of Steven Bender has become entangled in a movie script.

Bender, 34, is facing trial next week for the May 13, 2000, shooting death of Marvin Knieriem.

Knieriem was boyfriend to Bender's estranged wife.

In filings Tuesday, prosecutors gave notice that they intend to present evidence that Bender, a former state prison guard, solicited a fellow guard to kill his wife if he would return the favor - just like a movie he once saw.

Les Jennings, a prison guard at the State Correctional Institution Greene, told police that he was involved in a custody dispute and knew that Bender was going through that sort of thing as well.

He said he went to Bender for advice the week prior to Knieriem's death.

According to Jennings, Bender called him over (at work) and asked him if he had ever seen a movie about two guys riding on a train. Through the course of their conversation the two realize they have the same problem, and they could take care of each other's problem.

'Bender suggested that Jennings kill Bender's wife and that Bender would kill Jennings' wife. Bender said that no one would suspect them in the murders because Jennings lived in Indiana County and Bender lived in Fayette County,' stated the police report.

While Jennings refused, he did not report the conversation until after the killing.

According to police, Bender, of South Connellsville, broke into Knieriem's home and shot him, then attempted to shoot his estranged wife, Beverly.

Beverly Pletcher shielded herself with the couple's 2-year-old daughter while Bender shot Knieriem again in an effort to get Pletcher to put the girl down.

Bender has said the killing was the result of police inaction. He said 2-year-old Allison Bender was being abused by Knieriem, but police refused to investigate.

After the shooting, she was tested at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. No signs of abuse were found.

The police report filed yesterday calls Bender's story into question.

According to the report, Bender wanted his wife dead for the sheer economics of the situation.

'Bender told Jennings that it costs only 25 cents for a bullet. Jennings said that he told Bender that he would sooner do things the legal way. Bender replied that 25 cents was a whole lot cheaper than paying child support,' states the report.

Meanwhile, Bender's attorney, Caroline Roberto, filed several proposed questions for jurors yesterday, suggesting the defense will try to show that the killing was done in an attempt to protect Allison Bender.

Bender's case is anticipated to be called for trial Monday.

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