Lisa Donlon, Acquitted in
Husband's Death, Speaks Out
By Rebecca Palsha - Channel 2 News
April 03, 2013
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Lisa Donlon
walked out of jail Tuesday evening as a free woman, for the first
time after being held and tried in the October 2010 death of her
husband -- but she says she wasn't sure what the jury's decision
A Palmer jury acquitted Donlon Tuesday of
charges including second-degree murder, manslaughter and
criminally negligent homicide after she shot Jason Donlon five
times while he slept. Her defense attorney says the jury found she
acted in self-defense and that Jason Donlon tortured, kidnapped
and raped Lisa Donlon during a three-day period.
Donlon says she prayed for a verdict in her
favor, then waited to see what it was.
“I left it in God’s hands,” Donlon said
Wednesday afternoon in an interview with Channel 2.
Donlon says she doesn’t remember what she was
thinking before she pulled the trigger. She says Jason had just
raped her and threatened to kill the couple’s three children.
“(He said) he would start taking my children
out as they came home from school,” Donlon said, “and that he
would finish off with me.”
Donlon says she’ll spend Wednesday evening with
her three boys, who are now 11, 13 and 15, eating pizza and
watching movies. It will be the first time she’s seen them outside
of jail in more than two years.
"We’re just going to hang out, watch some TV,
eat some pizza and hug -- be a family,” Donlon said.
Donlon says the first thing she did after being
released was go out to dinner and order some lasagna -- the meal
she’s missed the most since she was arrested in the case.
Calls to district attorneys in the case weren't
immediately returned Wednesday.
Wife is CLEARED of murdering
her husband as he slept after telling how he raped and tortured
her for days
Lisa Donlon was found not guilty of
second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent
homicide on Tuesday
The mother of three shot her husband once in
the head and three times in his back as he slept in 2010
Defense argued Jason Donlon had been raping
and torturing her for days
April 3, 2013
A jury acquitted an Alaska woman who shot her
husband six times as he slept, killing him, after she said the man
held her against her will and tortured her for three days.
A Palmer jury on Tuesday found Lisa Donlon not
guilty on all counts after several days of deliberations following
a four-week trial, according to KTUU-TV.
Donlon, a mother of three, was charged with
second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent
She shot her husband, Jason Donlon, once in the
head and five times in the back with a .45-caliber handgun while
he slept on Oct. 7, 2010 before calling 911 to report the
The defense argued Jason Donlon had been raping
and torturing his wife for three days. They say he was keeping her
against her will in a cabin or storage shed in Butte, about 40
miles northeast of Anchorage.
Prosecutors argued the killing was
non-confrontational, and they said that while medical records
showed evidence of scrapes and bruises there was nothing to
indicate Lisa Donlon had been tortured.
A grand jury initially declined to indict
Donlon but reconsidered after prosecutors presented new evidence.
Her lawyer argued that she was a victim of
domestic violence and the shooting was justified.
‘Anyone I think would have done what Lisa
Donlon did to protect herself and to protect her children under
those circumstances,’ said defense attorney Zachary Renfro
according to KTUU during closing arguments. ‘Lisa Donlon was kept
in a 12 by 20 cabin against her will, unable to leave by the
threat of death to her, death to her children.’
The Donlons married in South Carolina in 1995,
and court papers show trouble in their marriage when they were
living in Eagle River in 2006. That year she obtained a
restraining order against her husband and doctors documented her
In a petition for the restraining order, she
said he became enraged when she announced she wanted a divorce.
'He packed his things, told the kids `bye,''
she wrote. 'Twenty minutes later he came back with his two loaded
guns. He was trying to force me to call the police because he
wanted to be shot by police officers so it wouldn't look like a
She wrote that her husband had pointed a gun to
her chest before, had thrown her out of the house with no clothes
on -- an event she said was witnessed by one of their sons. She
also stated that her husband had choked her unconscious.
She said she didn't call police because she was
'I have a feeling that he would use his guns
easily, and I don't want to create any situation that would
trigger that,' she wrote.
Two days after she obtained the restraining
order, Jason Donlon, who was a computer technician for the Alaska
Army National Guard, filed for divorce, seeking custody of the
The couple soon reconciled and were living in a
small building behind the home of his mother and stepfather.
Defense Attorney Zachary Renfro said that while
Donlon was in jail she had weekly visits from her three sons. He
said the next step is to work on a plan to reunite her with her
Jury deliberates Donlon’s
By Andrew Wellner - Frontiersman.com
March 28, 2013
PALMER — Among the many things he told and
showed the jury Thursday, one sentence on a slide in Palmer
District Attorney Roman Kalytiak’s PowerPoint presentation seemed
to sum up his view of Lisa Donlon: She “chose a .45 instead of the
police or a divorce lawyer.”
Donlon’s trial ended Thursday after occupying
most of the month of March in Superior Court Judge Kari
Kristiansen’s courtroom. She is accused murder for shooting her
husband Jason Donlon while he lay in bed in their Butte-area
“Trials don’t have to be this long,” Kalytiak
told the jury. “A trial can be in a matter of seconds because the
evidence has shown here that a trial was conducted on Oct. 7,
He said Lisa Donlon weighed the evidence, found
her husband guilty and imposed the death penalty in “a matter of
minutes, if not seconds.”
But she didn’t have to, Kalytiak argued. When
she managed to lock her husband out of the family vehicle she
could have driven to the police station. With the kids away at
school on the days she said her husband tortured her, she could
have called the police, had them pick the kids up so she knew they
were safe. She could have gotten a divorce, or gone to live with
friends out of state.
Instead, she shot Jason Donlon five times,
including what Kalytiak called a “coup de grace” shot behind the
ear. That sent a message, he said.
“I don’t want this person to ever recover from
anything. I want this person gone. Period. Exclamation point,”
Kalytiak said of the shooting.
But he wasn’t the only one making arguments
Thursday. Zachary Renfro, one of Donlon’s attorneys, argued her
“Anyone, I think, would have done what Lisa
Donlon did and should have done to protect herself and her
children,” Renfro said. “Lisa Donlon was kept in a 12-by-12 cabin
against her will by threat of death to her (and) to her children.”
He said the trial wasn’t about money — despite
what Kalytiak implied, Lisa Donlon didn’t even know about her
husband’s $400,000 insurance policy — nor was it about an affair
she said she’d had with a co-worker.
And it wasn’t, Renfro said, a matter of Donlon
arguing — as Kalytiak implied — that “the son-of-a-bitch deserved
what he had coming.”
“Whether or not I believe that, I’m not allowed
to argue that to a jury and you’re not allowed to consider it in
your deliberations,” Renfro said.
No, what the case was about, he argued, was an
imminent threat. The night before he was killed — after three days
of torturing his wife over that affair — Renfro said Jason Donlon
stayed up late.
“All night long he’s saying, ‘tomorrow’s the
day. You’re going to pay. You have to pay for what you’ve done,’”
She believed he was going to kill her, but even
so she held out hope, hatching a plan to keep their three kids
home and maybe defuse the situation. She turned off the alarm
clocks in the cabin. But then Jason Donlon woke up anyway, got
their oldest off to middle school. And that’s when she knew.
“She knew he is going to do what he said he’s
going to do,” Renfro said.
As of press time Thursday afternoon, the jury
had received its instructions. And deliberations are expected to
Testimony: Friends knew of
By Andrew Wellner - Frontiersman.com
March 16, 2013
PALMER — Jason Donlon’s best friend said that
when he received a frantic voice message from his friend in
October of 2010, he knew something was wrong.
“He said, ‘call me because I really need you,’
and I knew. I knew that something bad had happened,” Richard
Sheetz told jurors Friday.
He tried to call back but couldn’t. He said, he
assumed then that Donlon had hurt or killed his wife. But,
actually, it was Donlon who had died at his wife’s hands just a
couple days after that call.
Sheetz was testifying in the murder trial of
Lisa Donlon. Both sides agree that on Oct. 7, 2010, Lisa Donlon
shot her husband in the back as he slept in their Butte-area
cabin. Her attorneys argue that her husband had threatened
multiple times to kill her and that he had tortured her for days
prior to the shooting. Prosecutors contend that she had better
options available, that she could have left or called police and
didn’t need to shoot a sleeping man in the back.
Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen ruled on
Friday that she would allow defense attorneys to tell the jury it
can consider self-defense as a possible justification for a
not-guilty verdict. District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said he
intends to appeal that ruling.
Sheetz said he had known Jason Donlon since in
1989 when they were both stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C.
As a young Marine, Sheetz said, his friend
“would actively seek out conflict.”
It’s a behavior that didn’t taper off as his
friend matured. They wound up living in different parts of the
country, but kept in touch by phone and through occasional visits.
In 2007, Jason Donlon stayed with Sheetz and his wife at their
home in Colorado. In a conversation at the kitchen table they
talked about his friend’s marriage.
“He told me that they were having problems and
he told me that it had become physical,” Sheetz testified. “He
told me, ‘I smacked her around a little bit.’”
Sheetz said he didn’t approve and he tried to
help. He lined up a job for Jason Donlon where he worked, told his
friend to move down there, take some time and cool off.
“He said that he wouldn’t do that,” Sheetz
Sheetz’s wife, Jennifer Sheetz, said that she
had also tried to help, offering to fly Lisa Donlon and her three
boys to Colorado.
It seemed apparent from her testimony that as
years went by she could see the Donlons’ relationship
deteriorating. At one point she and Lisa Donlon implemented a code
phrase, “bunny ears,” to indicate when Lisa Donlon felt unable to
talk freely on the phone because someone else was listening.
“I didn’t witness any physical violence take
place, but I did hear some things over the phone,” Jennifer Sheetz
Sometime in 2006, Jennifer Sheetz said, she
started to get very concerned. Lisa Donlon told her that her
husband had cut her hair, raped her and threw her outside without
any clothes on.
“I felt that he just really didn’t see her as a
person anymore, the way he was treating her,” she said. Later, she
said, “Jason was a very generous person. He was a lot of fun.
There were a lot of great things about him. But he had a horrible
Also Friday, Kalytiak got a chance to question
Lisa Donlon directly.
“Every time one of these things happened you
should have been or you were re-evaluating your marriage?”
“No, not every time,” Lisa Donlon said,
explaining there were times that her husband promised he’d do
better, that things would change. “When you love somebody you
believe them when they tell you that.”
Roman asked about the time Jason Donlon filed
for a divorce. Lisa Donlon said that he’d done that as a ruse to
get her to come back by scaring her into thinking that with his
lawyer he’d be able to get full custody of the kids.
“He told me I had no chance of winning because
I had no job, I had no lawyer and I had no place to live,” Lisa
“You chose domestic violence and rape and name
calling over divorce and some financial struggling?” Kalytiak
“He said that things would get better and we
would get counseling,” Lisa Donlon replied.
Kalytiak asked her if the Donlons were a couple
that enjoyed turbulence in their relationship, if she and Jason
Donlon thrived on conflict. She said they were not. Later, he
asked about a possible explanation for the torture she described
in the days leading up to her shooting Jason Donlon — she said
previously that her hands were bound and she was suspended from
the ceiling as he whipped her, poked her with needles and slapped
“You would agree that what you described to the
jury sounds like a bondage-type situation,” Kalytiak asked her.
“No. That’s sick,” Lisa Donlon replied.
Donlon details abuse for jury
during murder trial
Andrew Wellner - Frontiersman.com
March 14, 2013
PALMER — While her kids waited in the car, Lisa Donlon said her
husband walked her into the woods.
that far had been a struggle. First she’d tried to lock him out of
the family SUV. Then, when he pulled her out of the vehicle and
she fell on the ground, she refused to stand up.
“He said, ‘if you don’t walk right now I’m going to do it right
here,’” Lisa Donlon said Thursday from the witness stand. She said
she believes her husband intended to kill her — right there, next
to the SUV with their boys waiting inside. She said she gave up
and went with him after her husband told her, “I’ll have to take
them out, too, because they can’t go through their lives being
Donlon was on the witness stand
testifying in her own trial for allegedly murdering her husband.
Two days after the incident in the woods, she shot him in the back
while he lay in their bed. Her attorneys argue she had no choice,
that Jason Donlon wouldn’t let her leave and that he had been
Prosecutors in the case argue
that she was not a prisoner and that she had other options better
than shooting a man who was very likely sleeping.
The argument that led to the incident in the woods off of the Jim
Creek trails began after Jason Donlon found some text messages
between his wife and one of her co-workers.
Donlon said she told her husband she and the co-worker had been
flirting for three weeks and that they’d kissed only once. She
said on the witness stand that was a lie — it’d been going on five
weeks and they’d kissed five times. She said he believed there was
way more too it and was demanding answers.
the trail in the Butte, Donlon said her husband choked her until
her knees were weak and her vision blurry. Then he gave her three
options — shoot herself, overdose on the post-surgery pain
medications she’d been taking and that he had in his pocket, or
let him strangle her. She opted for the pills.
“He gave them to me and I was taking some and he snatched them
back and said, ‘you’re not getting off that easy,’” Donlon
testified in court Thursday.
So they went back
to their house. Her husband tried — though often failed — to
remain controlled when the kids were around. But the next day when
the children went to school, she said he bound her hands,
connected them to a pulley system and tied that to a hook in the
roof. He sprayed her with rubbing alcohol and tried to light her
“I kept blowing the lighter out and
that made him more mad,” she said.
So he hit her
with a belt, punched her and slapped her. He told her if she
screamed she might get someone killed as he would have to take out
potential witnesses. At the end he had sex with her — “forced
himself on me,” Donlon testified — and went to sleep like nothing
Donlon said their relationship had
been abusive for years, starting in South Carolina where he worked
as a police officer. He would hit her, slap her and sometimes
choke her. Three times he choked her until she passed out, she
A few years after moving to Alaska,
he deployed with the military to Iraq. He came back and things got
worse. She tried to leave him in 2006, but he found her at a
women’s shelter in Anchorage, the location of which, she said,
she’d been told was supposed to be a secret. That’s why she didn’t
think she could leave when he was tying her to the ceiling of
their one-room cabin.
“I had left before and he
had found me,” she said. “I had went to a shelter where I was
supposed to be protected and it was supposed to be a secret.”
So, having been told the torture would resume the next day she
shot him after one of their sons had gone to school, but before
the other two left.
Domestic-violence victim charged in spouse's
Donlon shot husband 6 times while he
was lying in bed
By Lisa Demer - Adn.com
December 27, 2010
After initially deciding not
to charge a Butte woman for killing her husband, a Palmer grand
jury received new information and has now indicted the woman on
charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Lisa Donlon, now 38 and the mother of three boys, shot Jason
Donlon, 40, once in the head and five times in the back with a
.45-caliber handgun early Oct. 7 as he lay in their bed,
prosecutors have said.
She then called 911 and
admitted shooting her husband, prosecutors say.
The initial decision by the grand jury to not charge her was based
in part on evidence that Lisa Donlon was a victim of domestic
violence, prosecutors say. Doctors had documented injuries. And
back in 2006, she had sought a restraining order to protect
herself from her husband.
"Her claim was, and
is, that the murder was justified," Palmer District Attorney Roman
Kalytiak said Monday.
Donlon testified before
the grand jury, which is unusual for the target of a criminal
investigation. For suspects who believe what they did was
justified, "the grand jury would provide a good place for them to
make their feelings known or to give their side of the story," the
district attorney said.
Usually police bring
initial charges and prosecutors seek an indictment within a
specified number of days.
"In this case, there
was an ongoing investigation and a decision was made not to charge
her right away but to present it to the grand jury in the format
of an investigative grand jury case," Kalytiak said.
The same grand jury that heard the case in October revisited it in
December when the district attorney's office presented additional
information it had received, he said.
He said he
could not disclose what that information was because the inner
workings of a grand jury are secret.
papers show trouble in the Donlon marriage back in 2006, when the
family was living in Eagle River.
married July 4, 1995, in Greenville, S.C., a divorce filing said.
When Lisa Donlon filed paperwork for a civil restraining order on
Nov. 6, 2006, she wrote that her husband had been violent toward
her and that things had blown up when she announced to him the
week before that she wanted a divorce.
packed his things, told the kids bye. Twenty minutes later he came
back with his two loaded guns. He was trying to force me to call
the police because he wanted to be shot by police officers so it
wouldn't look like a suicide," Lisa Donlon wrote.
She was afraid for her life, and his, she wrote. She didn't know
what he might do. She left the house with their children.
He had pointed a gun to her chest before, she wrote. He also had
thrown her out of the house with no clothes on, an event witnessed
by one of their sons. Another time, he choked her unconscious, she
She didn't report him to police because she was
"I'm afraid now to face my husband
before our divorce process is over. I have a feeling that he would
use his guns easily and I don't want to create any situation that
would trigger that," she wrote.
At the time, she
wasn't working. Jason Donlon was a computer tech for the Alaska
Army National Guard, she wrote.
She was granted
a temporary restraining order.
Just two days
later, on Nov. 8, 2006, it was Jason Donlon, not Lisa, who filed
for divorce. He was seeking custody of their three young sons.
That Nov. 13, he twice called the children's school to find out if
they were there, even though he was under court order not to do
that. He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of violating the
protective order. That criminal case later was dropped.
Within weeks, the Donlons were reconciling. On
Dec. 28, 2006, Jason Donlon asked a judge to dismiss the divorce
This past summer, the family moved to the
Valley. Bills were mounting for Lisa Donlon back in Anchorage,
according to a small claims case filed against her in July.
She didn't respond to the case until Nov. 22.
"Due to my domestic violence issues, I apologize for the
lateness," she wrote.
When Jason Donlon was
killed, the family was living in a storage shed behind the home of
his mother and stepfather, prosecutors have said.
Two of their sons were home at the time. Their children now are
age 13 and under.
Lisa Donlon is being held on
$100,000 bail at the Mat-Su pretrial facility.
bail hearing is set for Wednesday.
Grand jury won't indict woman in Butte shooting
Evidence supported claim that she was victim of violence.
By K.T. McKee - Adn.com
November 2, 2010
WASILLA -- A
Palmer grand jury decided Thursday that a Butte woman who shot her
husband to death last month should not be charged for the killing
because of "significant evidence" of being abused by him over the
Lisa Michele Donlon, a 37-year-old mother of three boys,
shot Jason Donlon, 40, once in the head and five times in the back
with a . 45-caliber handgun as he lay in their bed on the morning
of Oct. 7.
Two of their sons were home at the time of the 7 a.m.
slaying. The family had been living in a storage shed behind the
home of Jason Donlon's mother and stepfather, said Rachel Gernat,
the case's lead assistant district attorney in Palmer.
was evidence of serious physical abuse and that she had sought
assistance before," Gernat said, being cautious about what she
revealed about the case because grand jury proceedings are usually
"We were able to confirm all of her story. The
shooting doesn't appear to have been premeditated. It was
definitely a product of the situation."
Neither Lisa Donlon nor
anyone else in the Donlon family could be reached for comment.
Donlon grew up in Savannah, Ga., and later attended high school
and technical college in South Carolina, according to her profile
on a social networking website.
She's lived in Alaska for at least nine years, according to
The Donlons had been married for more than 12
years and their sons were all under the age of 13, Gernat said
Jason Donlon had served in Iraq with the Army and had
returned to Alaska in 2006 -- the same year the former Eagle River
resident was charged with violating a domestic violence protective
order against his wife in an Anchorage court, Gernat said.
family had moved to the Valley this past summer, and Donlon
commuted to her two jobs in the Anchorage area. One of those jobs
involved working with children at an Anchorage school, Gernat
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said there was
plenty of evidence of bruising and other injuries to Lisa Donlon
from doctors' examinations. There was no evidence, however, that
Jason Donlon physically abused the children, he said.
him was never a mystery, Kalytiak said.
"It was never an issue
of whether she shot him because she admitted to it when she called
911," Kalytiak said Monday. "Therefore, the grand jury must have
found the shooting to be justified. Basically, her position was
that she didn't have any other choice in the matter than to do
what she did."
Kalytiak said he's sure some in the community
will judge Donlon harshly for what she did.
probably feel she had plenty of opportunities to help herself and
will feel that since her husband was laying on his stomach at the
time of the shooting, it wasn't a true self-defense case," he
"On the other hand, people who know about domestic violence
point out that there are certain psychological aspects that lead
victims to get to the point where they feel pretty desperate and
that their choices are very limited."