By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Jennifer Nibbe by the family of the man she shot to death while he slept.
James Nibbe’s family isn’t expecting to be awarded much as a result of the lawsuit, but they are hoping to ensure Jennifer Nibbe never profits from the murder of her husband.
Jennifer Nibbe is in prison in Shakopee and is scheduled to be released in August 2027.
She confessed to murdering her husband shortly after her arrest in September 2010 and was indicted for first-degree murder in March 2011. After several court motions, including a challenge of her confession, she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in July.
“The family is concerned that she never ever ever ever ever profit from this from any paid television interviews or book offers,” said Scott Kelly, the attorney representing James Nibbe’s family. “The family was disappointed in the sentence she received.”
The family does not intend to profit from the lawsuit, Kelly said. Any money they receive will be put into a nonprofit foundation. A scholarship fund already has been established in James Nibbe’s name and is funded through an annual golf outing and music festival.
The Nibbe family is suing Jennifer Nibbe, 36, for medical expenses, funeral expenses and damages, including “loss of aid, comfort, society and companionship.” Kelly said he also will be filing a motion to seek punitive damages.
Jennifer Nibbe’s confession to the murder, which was recorded by investigators, should make the case an easy one to win, Kelly said. The difficulty will be setting an amount for damages. Jennifer Nibbe’s sentence included a court order to pay $11,418 in funeral expenses out of her prison earnings.
“We see a lot of tragic cases in wrongful death,” Kelly said. “I don’t understand how parents ever survive the death of a child. Even though James was an adult, it was absolutely devastating to the family.”
The family has settled a civil lawsuit that was filed to recover some of James Nibbe’s belongings from Jennifer Nibbe’s father, Dan Gilman. He lived next door and cleared the house out after James Nibbe, 26, was shot the morning of Aug. 31, 2010, but before his daughter was arrested.
Gilman refused to return property, some of which the James Nibbe family described as sentimental, until after his daughter was convicted. Even then the family needed a court order to get some items.
A life insurance policy worth $250,000 was taken out for James Nibbe and issued June 25, 2010, which was about two months before he was murdered. Jennifer Nibbe was the only beneficiary listed on the policy.
Since it is against Minnesota law for a murderer to benefit from an insurance benefit, State Farm Insurance requested a court order to have the money turned over to the court until a new beneficiary was found. That request was granted by District Court Judge Bradley Walker on Jan. 8.
Blue Earth County District Judge Krista Jass issued an order Jan. 30 that said James Nibbe’s mother, Karen Nibbe, should receive the insurance money. A check for $262,000, which included interest that has been paid since the murder, was issued to the James Nibbe estate, which is being handled by his sister Leslie Nibbe Johnson.