The seesaw marriage between the former ballerina and her much older husband only lasted four years, until she shot him on September 27, 2020.
Ashley Byers met Doug Benefield at a dinner in Florida in August 2016 and sparks flew immediately. Ashley was 24 and a former ballerina and swimsuit model.
A whirlwind romance
Doug was 54 and worked as a consultant for technology companies and government contractors. The couple married 13 days later in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, in front of very few guests
Doug didn't tell Eva, his 15-year-old daughter from his previous marriage., that he and Ashley had married. Eva's mother Renee had died of an undiagnosed heart ailment nine months earlier.
Ashley struggled to get along with Eva, right, and her friend, Sydney, who moved in with the family.
During an argument with Ashley about Eva, Doug fired his gun into the kitchen ceiling.
But Doug continued to support Ashley in her dream of building a ballet company in Charleston. The American National Ballet would be a more inclusive home to dancers who were considered unconventional.
Building a family
While they were building the ballet company, Ashley became pregnant. She began to suffer from nausea and returned to Florida so her mother could take care of her.
Is the marriage over?
A month later, in September 2017, Ashley and her mother returned to Charleston. She packed up her belongings and left a scathing note. Ashley called Doug "possessive" and "controlling." She wrote that the incident when Doug had fired a gun into the ceiling as well as other unsafe behavior had left her fearful for her life and the safety of her unborn child.
The ballet crumbles
In October, Ashley left the ballet company and new leadership fired half of the dancers. Ashley posted on the ballet's social media pages that she was devastated, and that the new leadership destroyed all that they worked so hard to build.
Ashley then told authorities about the gun incident. Child Protective Services investigated and interviewed Eva. Doug was evaluated by a psychologist and ultimately cleared.
Were they poisoned?
Ashley also claimed Doug poisoned her and his first wife, Renee. Renee's autopsy says she died of coronary artery sclerosis, a heart condition.
Ashley had no contact with Doug for the rest of her pregnancy despite his pleas to be involved. In March 2018, three weeks before her due date, she checked into the hospital and said her husband had poisoned her. Doctors performed a C-section and delivered a healthy baby girl. Doug didn't know she'd been born.
After Ashley filed court documents to keep Doug away from her and their daughter, a judge weighed in on the case. She found "There is not a single scintilla of credible evidence that Ms. Benefield has ever been poisoned or suffered from any illness of any poison."
Doug and Ashley began sharing custody of their daughter when she was 6 months old.
Doug and Ashley appeared to put their differences behind them, and reconciled for much of 2019. The two spent time together with their daughter
Marriage in crisis
In August 2019, Ashley showed up to drop off their daughter; she was wearing an engagement ring. Doug hired a private investigator, who said Ashley was seeing someone else. Doug filed for divorce. Ashley then accused him of physically and sexually abusing their daughter. Doug denied the allegations and CPS found no evidence of abuse.
In the summer of 2020, Ashley and Doug suddenly reconciled again and announced they were moving to Maryland with their daughter and Ashley's mother. On September 27, 2020, Doug was packing a U-Haul with the family's possessions.
That night a neighbor called 911 to report a shooting at the home. Ashley had walked to his house holding a .45 caliber gun and said Doug had attacked her and she shot him. Doug died an hour later at a local hospital.
Ashley was arrested on November 4, 2020 and charged with second-degree murder. She posted bond a few weeks later and is awaiting trial. She pleaded not guilty.