MANKATO — Jennifer Nibbe received the sentence that was expected Monday for killing her husband, James Nibbe, at their home south of Lake Crystal, but it became clear after the hearing that families and friends supporting both the victim and his killer don’t believe Jennifer Nibbe’s trip to prison will be the end of a tragic situation.
His family isn’t happy with the sentence, which was set in a June plea deal that dismissed a first-degree murder charge and the possibility of a life sentence. James Nibbe’s sister and brothers also said they have been considering taking civil court action to recover their brother’s belongings, including clothing and a funeral book, from Jennifer Nibbe’s father, Dan Gilman.
Gilman and Jennifer Nibbe’s attorney, Rich Hillesheim, said there is more to the story behind James Nibbe’s death. Hillesheim said he was prepared to tell a jury that his client was the victim of physical and sexual abuse. He also said a trial would have revealed “fairly uncomplimentary things about James Nibbe” that would explain Jennifer Nibbe’s transition from someone with no criminal background to a convicted murderer. Those things included an autopsy report showing he tested positive for the HIV virus.
“My heart goes out to the Nibbe family, but they have an idealistic view of who he was,” Hillesheim said after Monday’s hearing.
Almost every seat in the courtroom, including those in the jury box, were filled when District Court Judge Bradley Walker sentenced Jennifer Nibbe to 25 years in prison. With good time and credit for the 700 days she has already served in prison, Nibbe, 35, could be placed on supervised release in 15 years. Walker also ordered Nibbe to use her prison earnings to pay the $11,418 owed to Mankato Mortuary for the funeral she planned for her husband.