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Texas dad allegedly shot wife and himself in front of son with autism one day after being served divorce papers

Jo Lei Henniger, Ben Henniger

Jo Lei Henniger (L) in a Christmas photo from 2017, and pictured with Ben Henniger in 2012 after their wedding (images via Facebook)

Authorities in rural Texas said Thursday that a local husband murdered his wife in front of their child before turning the gun on himself, in a tragic suspected murder-suicide that took unfolded in a store parking lot amid a divorce case.

The San Saba Police Department said that a juvenile witnessed 45-year-old Ben Henniger shoot 40-year-old Jo Lei Henniger and take his own life Wednesday afternoon, at roughly 3 p.m. in the Lowe’s Family Center parking lot.

“Upon officers’ arrival, it was determined that an altercation had occurred between a husband and wife, resulting in the death of both parties. An uninjured juvenile witness to the incident was also discovered at the location by a witness to the incident. The unnamed juvenile has since been re-located to live with other family members in the San Saba area,” authorities said.

KWTX reported that the murder-suicide occurred the day after Ben Henniger was served divorce papers and that the deadly violence was witnessed by the couple’s young son with autism. The report said that Jo Lei had picked up her son from school before she was shot and killed.

“This is a shocking and tragic situation,” San Saba Police Chief John Bauer said in a statement. “Words cannot express the depth of our condolences for the friends and family of those involved. I’m extremely grateful for the work of our first responders who, despite a traumatic situation, acted quickly and operated with the utmost professionalism. This is a sad day for our entire community, and we will work diligently to determine what occurred.”

According to their Facebook pages, the couple lived in Chappel, Texas — an area located “at the intersection of Farm roads 1031 and 501, near Cherokee Creek and five miles southwest of Bend in southeastern San Saba County.”

Law&Crime was not immediately able to confirm Ben Henniger’s precise date of birth, but he posted at least two times over the years on April 19th — the day the suspected murder-suicide took place — to thank his Facebook friends for “birthday wishes.”

His Facebook page was filled with photos and videos of a daughter participating in local rodeo events and the family roping animals on their property.

Ben Henniger (via Facebook)

Ben Henniger (via Facebook)

In 2019, Ben Henniger posted a message “[f]or all the people that don’t understand why we live this way of life.”

“For all the bankers that say it doesn’t make sense on paper. For everyone that says we need to get a real job. For all those parents whose kids are playing video games. This is why we do it, this is our dream, To pass on our heritage, Our love, our values, our way of life to the next ones in line. Thank you Lord for giving me the chance to do this with my kids,” he wrote, sharing photos of his daughter riding a horse.

On April 16th, just three days before the shooting, he wrote his last post about burying an “old horse,” namely Apache Cutter Bill.

“[H]e’s been w me longer than any women any bankers, well he’s been with me longer than anything. Adios my good friend,” he wrote.

Ben Henniger’s Facebook page said the couple got married in September 2012.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.