A retired federal law enforcement officer is standing trial on a first-degree murder charge this week in the shooting death of his girlfriend’s estranged husband.
Gary Landers, 58, of Paint Rock, who worked as an investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration, is accused of shooting Richard Benovic, 49, of the Justin area with a Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun in the abdomen several times on May 7, 2010, just steps away from the Denton Police Department.
Landers told police he was there with Anna Benovic — Richard Benovic’s estranged wife — to drop off the couple’s two children for visitation. He told police he believed Richard Benovic intended to harm them and said he shot him when Benovic advanced toward him after being asked to step away.
The couple had been apart since earlier that year after Anna Benovic told Richard Benovic she wanted a divorce, according to officials.
Police records show the couple were at the station to not only exchange their 9-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son for visitation but to trade vehicles since the son had special needs and Anna Benovic’s van was wheelchair accessible.
Landers told police that the custody exchanges normally took place at the Denton County Sheriff’s Office but that he had been told instead to go to the Denton police station.
Landers told police he was startled to see Richard Benovic about five feet away when he and Anna Benovic stepped from the vehicle.
Testimony began Tuesday before 158th District Court Judge Steve Burgess, with several prosecution witnesses telling jurors that Richard Benovic said he was afraid Landers would kill him.
Precinct 4 Constable Tim Burch testified that he had never met Richard Benovic in person, but received at least 12 to 14 calls from him after he had separated from his wife.
Burch testified that most of the conversations ended with Richard Benovic crying and the two of them praying together on the phone. He said at times that Benovic had feared for his life because Landers told him he had a gun and would use it if necessary.
A formal report on the threat was not made, Burch told the court.
Terri Tate, a longtime friend of Richard Benovic, told jurors he had always been there for her, even when her husband died of cancer.
“He was my best male friend,” she said.
Tate said she was supposed to meet Richard Benovic and his two children for lunch while he had visitation that weekend. She told the court that Anna Benovic yelled at and mistreated Richard Benovic and that she didn’t approve of the Benovics’ marriage.
Fort Worth-based attorneys Jim Lane and Tim Choy, as well as Denton attorney Earl Dobson, are defending Landers.
Dobson said they are working to show the jury that Landers was acting in self-defense, based on actions and words exchanged that day and previously with Richard Benovic.
Assistant District Attorneys Tony Paul and Paul Hiemke are prosecuting the case.
Testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m. today at the Denton County Courts Building.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.