Benjamin Sebena pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to the Christmas Eve murder of his wife, Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena.
At his arraignment before Judge David Borowski, Benjamin Sebena again appeared strapped in a wheelchair and wearing a security vest, as he has in every appearance since his arrest and charging. He did not speak; his attorney, Michael Steinle, entered the plea on his behalf.
In the very brief proceeding, Steinle made no mention at this stage of a possible defense of not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect.
The not guilty plea means the case will go to trial, with further proceedings to set a trial date scheduled for March 1.
The charge against Benjamin Sebena, first-degree intentional homicide by use of a dangerous weapon, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Jennifer Sebena was found dead just outside Wauwatosa Fire Station No. 1 in the Village, shot five times in the head. She had been on the police force for two years, from the top of her class at the MATC Police Academy. She had gone on solo patrol in July and had been assigned to the night shift only about a month before her death.
Benjamin Sebena quickly became a suspect and, after questioning, admitted in a statement to police that he had murdered his wife, the criminal complaint against him said.
The two guns presumed used to kill Jennifer were found hidden in the ceiling of the couple's basement in their Menomonee Falls home. One was her service weapon, the other a type that uses very rare ammunition. A shell casing of that type was found at the crime scene.
According to the criminal complaint, Sebena told police he stalked Jennifer for several days before the crime and waited hours on Christmas Eve to ambush her. His motive, he said, was jealousy.
Wauwatosa police officers assigned to the night shift in the Village squad area frequently use the fire station as an auxiliary police station, taking breaks and filing reports there.
Benjamin Sebena, a wounded Marine veteran of the Iraq War, told investigators that when Jennifer came out of the fire station's north door, he stepped up behind her and fired two shots to the back of her head. The medical examiner's report shows that either one of those shots alone would have been instantly incapacitating and almost certainly fatal.
Nevertheless, Sebena grabbed his wife's service weapon and shot her three more times in the face. Sebena told police he fired those shots because he did not want his wife to suffer.
The last contact police dispatchers had with Officer Jen Sebena was at 3:29 a.m. They attempted to contact her again at about 4:30, and when she failed to respond, a search located her body just minutes later.
A car matching Benjamin Sebena's black 2012 Toyota Prius, including its black wheel rims, was seen on DOT and private business video about 3:45 a.m., traveling toward Menomonee Falls.
Sebena called the Wauwatosa Police Department at 6:35 a.m. to ask if Jennifer was all right, saying he had heard there had been an incident involving an officer. He was told Jennifer had been in an accident and that he should come to the station as soon as possible. Sebena did not ask what had happened to his wife.
At the station, when told Jennifer had been killed, a detective sergeant said, Sebena did not ask how she had died.
Sebena was questioned at length on Christmas Eve and taken into custody Christmas Day.
Officer Jennifer Sebena was buried with full honors after a memorial service attended by hundreds of law enforcement officers from across Wisconsin and even from other states.
She was the first officer to be killed in the line of duty in the 96-year history of the Wauwatosa Police Department.