The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 22, 2014

Nibbe brings plea to Supreme Court

A new trial could bring life sentence

MANKATO — A former rural Lake Crystal woman, who is scheduled to be released from prison in 15 years after admitting to killing her husband, is taking another step toward going to trial and facing the possibility of a life sentence.

After losing an appeal to withdraw her guilty plea to a murder charge, Jennifer Nibbe, 37, is now asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision released earlier this month.

Nibbe used what is referred to as a Norgaard plea when she reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in July 2012. She was facing a first-degree murder charge for shooting her husband, 26-year-old James Nibbe, while he slept in their house south of Lake Crystal in Aug. 2010. The plea allowed her to say she didn't remember shooting her husband, but agree that there was enough evidence for a jury to find her guilty.

Included in that evidence is a video recording of her being questioned by investigators a short time after she was arrested in September 2010. That was before she lost her memory. Wearing an orange jail uniform, Nibbe wept as she admitted to taking her husband's life.

“It’s been killing me since the day it happened,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to live with this the rest of my life.

“I took somebody’s son and I killed somebody’s brother, grandson and uncle — and he was a good person. He was a good person. There were some things in our marriage that weren’t the greatest, but I mean ... he was a good person. I just can’t live with this lie.”

She described it as a rash decision she made while lacking sleep and high on pain medication.

In exchange for Nibbe's plea, prosecutors reduced the charge from first-degree murder to second-degree murder. District Court Judge Bradley Walker sentenced her to about 17 years in prison. If convicted of the more serious charge, Nibbe faced life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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