NAPLES, Fla. — Tobacco heir Steven Wayne Benson was sentenced Tuesday to two consecutive life terms in prison for killing his mother and adopted brother by blowing up the family car with pipe bombs.
Benson, 35, stood silently as Circuit Judge Hugh D. Hayes pronounced the sentence, which had been recommended by the trial jury.
Benson could have received the death sentence. He will have to serve at least 50 years before being eligible for parole.
Hayes also sentenced Benson to 15 years for four counts of arson and to 22 years for the attempted murder of his sister. These terms run concurrently with each other but consecutively with the life sentences.
Benson was convicted Aug. 7 of planting two 27-pound pipe bombs in the family car and detonating them as Margaret Benson, 63, Scott Benson, 21, and Carol Lynn Benson Kendall, 42, sat in the vehicle, parked outside the family's Naples home.
Margaret and Scott Benson died, but Kendall, a former beauty queen, survived with disfiguring burns. She was a prosecution witness at the trial in Fort Myers.
During the trial, prosecutors contended that Benson planted the bombs to avoid getting cut out of his mother's multimillion-dollar estate.
Benson attorney Michael McDonnell, however, told jurors that the pipe bombs could have been planted by acquaintances of Scott Benson who possibly were angered over a soured drug deal with the aspiring tennis pro.
Scott Benson, the out-of-wedlock son of Kendall, was adopted and reared by his grandmother to avoid a family scandal. McDonnell portrayed him to jurors as a troubled drug user.
McDonnell said he would appeal the sentence.