For the second time today I am faced with a case that I am unsure how I feel about. Just as in the one prior, I am left with many unanswered questions. The difference here however is that there will likely never be an appeal on the case, or one substantial enough that would give the details I am looking for, things that only a trial or court hearing would produce. In the end Jennifer Nibbe opted to plead guilty to the second degree murder of her husband and we are only left with the words of family and attorney as to what really went on.
What we do know is that on August 31, 2010 James Nibbe lost his life. He was sleeping in his Crystal Lake Minnesota home when he was shot in his head. His wife, Jennifer was present in the home, as well as a sixteen year old son. Jennifer would call 9-1-1 and claim that a “masked intruder” came into the home, grabbed the family rifle that was positioned at the door, shot her husband and then met her outside the bathroom door at gunpoint. She would claim that the man first pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger but the gun did not fire. She claimed he then grabbed her by the hair and drug her into the living room, wrapping a rope around her neck. The man would supposedly say something along the lines of being lucky he was allowing her to live and left the home.
Jennifer's story quickly fell apart. Investigators noticed that there seemed to be no sign of struggle in the living room where she claims the perpetrator took her. They were also suspicious that nothing was stolen in the home so it would have appeared that the only purpose of the “break in” was the shooting of James, and yet the perpetrator did not bring their own weapon? The attack had happened during the night and the home was dark. The only way that someone would have found the gun in the dark would be to know them and know the gun was kept there.
Jennifer would tell investigators that her marriage was a happy one but it did not take long for the investigators to talk to people to hear differently. The question was however what these people told investigators. Authorities would soon learn that just two months prior to the murder Jennifer had taken out a $250,000 life insurance policy out on her husband showing herself as the beneficiary. It was also said that they discovered she was spending about $1,000 a month on what was described as “to fraudulently obtain pain medication.” Whether they were indicating that she had an addiction is unknown. Again, keep in mind that Jennifer never went to trial so there will be unanswered questions.
The biggest thing the prosecution felt they had was the fact that Jennifer was having an affair. They had evidence of a diary she kept in which she not only discussed her boyfriend, but also the state of her marriage.
Prosecutors had charged Jennifer with first degree murder but she would plea that down to second degree and in July of 2012 receive a sentence of twenty-five years. She was also ordered to pay over $11,000 to the funeral home in which she had planned her husband's funeral. The judge also added a provision preventing Jennifer from benefiting in any way from her crime after hearing that some members of the media had offered to pay her for interviews.
It all seemed very open and shut, and from a legal sense it really was. But, apparently it was not as easy as it seemed. One of the biggest arguments made occurred when her attorney's announced that they had been prepared to go to trial to show that Jennifer had suffered from physical and sexual abuse from her husband. James Nibbe's family would argue that there had never been any talk of abuse until that time and that it had all come from Jennifer's lawyers. They would claim that the abuse allegations were false and only a defense tactic. Since there was not a trial one will never know.
It would be argued from the defense, and by Jennifer in her statement at her sentencing that the reason she had agreed to the plea was that she did not want to tarnish her husband's image. However, outside the courtroom her attorney would be quoted as saying that James' family had an “idealistic view” of him that did not fit the man that he was. One thing had come out very early in the case that the reaction given by James' family had me curious into digging a little bit. It was announced that an autopsy had been done on James' body and that it had been determined that he had tested positive for both HIV and Hepatitis. Apparently Jennifer had also been tested and according to her attorneys she had tested negative. The implication of course was that while his family was all but ready to add his name to sainthood that he had not been as “pure” as they had believed, or at least wanted others to believe. A family member stated that they were not deterred or concerned because “false positives in post mortem testing for HIV and hepatitis are common.” This was something that I had never heard of before so I did a check on it. It believes that this statement by the family was false. Now, do not get me wrong in saying that I believe James Nibbe's “deserved” to die due to these ailments or anything else but I am also a very “it is what it is” type of person. Of course as long as those results are accurate, and I have no reason to believe that they were not, it indicates that just as she was not faithful that the odds were that he was not either. However, both HIV and hepatitis are highly transferable in sex and the fact that Jennifer did not have them indicates that the couple did not have a sexual relationship, or not much of one. This is one of the many things in this case that a trial would have been nice to have to answer.
While I sat on the fence a bit on this case with all the holes, I then found myself at the Minnesota Department of Corrections website. I put in her name and up pops the picture of what appeared to be a very happy woman. The mugshot through me off guard a bit. That being said according to the site her “anticipated release” date is listed as August 10, 2027. She could however be in prison until February of 2036.
James Nibbe's family filed a civil suit against Jennifer for wrongful death but the last I could determine the case had been continued. Apparently Jennifer was representing herself in the beginning but has since hired a lawyer and they have asked for more time to prepare. Maybe that case can bring some answers.