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Mark D. JENSEN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Poisoner - Parricide
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 3, 1998
Date of arrest: March 18, 2002
Date of birth: October 5, 1959
Victim profile: Julie Jensen, 40 (his wife)
Method of murder: Poisoning with anti-freeze and then suffocated her
Location: Elkhorn, Wisconsin, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 26, 2008
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 
criminal complaint
 
 
julie jensen's letter
 
 
 
 
 
 

Death Foretold: '20/20' Exclusive

Julie Jensen, Found Dead, Had Written "I Would Never Take My Own Life"

By Jay Schadler and Susan B. Miller - ABC News

Feb. 29, 2008

For people on the outside looking in, Julie Jensen appeared to have it all: a successful stockbroker husband, Mark, to whom she'd been married for 14 years, two wonderful sons and a beautiful suburban home on tony Lakeshore Drive in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. "We all looked up to her as being a perfect mother," said friend Kim Shaw.

"[Julie and Mark] would always be outside, always working on some kind of project," remembered her friend and next-door neighbor Margaret Wojt. "Just laughing and having fun with it ... it was amazing to watch them."

But gradually, their marriage started to unravel. Wojt's husband, Ted, told "20/20" Mark had wanted Julie to be more sexually experimental. "She said, 'Aw, [Mark] wants me to be like these other women ... his friends. They go to the bars, three in the morning. They go to the strip clubs ... Drinking ... I'm not that. I don't want it."

Friends say Julie had previously contemplated divorce, but Wojt said Julie told her, "Mark would kill me first, before he divorced me".

Then, on Dec. 3, 1998, 40-year-old Jensen was discovered dead in her bed by her husband Mark. In the early hours of the investigation, police said suicide was the likely cause of death. District Attorney Bob Jambois was at the Jensen house that day and felt differently.

"It didn't look right," he said.

The family quickly held funeral services.

"Mark was standing five feet from her casket laughing and joking and acting like someone at a cocktail party" said Vorwald. Neighbor Carrie Ashley said, "I would probably mourn a stranger more than he mourned Julie."

When the autopsy came in, it did not confirm Jambois' suspicions and found no evidence of foul play. Instead, Jambois said, "It showed nothing."

The Letter

What neither Mark nor the investigators knew was that Jensen had left her own testimonial about what was going on inside her home. Before her death, she gave an envelope to Ted and Margaret Wojt. She told them that "if anything happens, give it to the police."

The Wojts, to whom Jensen had confided, gave police the sealed envelope. In it was a letter written by Julie Jensen, accompanied by a photo of a shopping list. Her words were simple and shocking-

"I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors and fear for my early demise," she wrote. "If anything happens to me, he would be my first suspect. I would never take my life because of my kids they are everything to me!"

Jensen also discussed in the letter a possible reason why her husband was harboring hostilities towards her. She referenced a brief affair that she had years earlier and said her husband had "never forgiven me."

The shopping list was written by Mark Jensen and included a list of such items as poisons and syringes. Margaret Wojt's reaction to the letter was a mix of sadness and anger. "I don't think you need anything else. Just read this and you know what happened," she told "20/20."

Investigators viewed the contents of the envelope as key evidence and "as Julie's last will and testament," said Jambois.

Legal Wrangling

Mark Jensen had secrets of his own. He had been having an affair with a married co-worker, Kelly LaBonte, and professed his love to her in emails that were found on his computer.

Could this have been a motive for murder? Prosecutors thought the letter and emails would help prove that Mark Jensen had a hand in his wife's death.

There were months of legal wrangling but eventually investigators were dealt a crushing blow. In 2002, the letter was ruled inadmissible. According to U.S. law, the accused always has the right to face his accuser.

"He can't confront her because he killed her," said an outraged Jambois.

Julie Jensen's four brothers were devastated. "We should fight to get the letter admitted. Because that was Julie's voice," said Paul Griffin, a brother.

In 2007, after years of legal disputes which made their way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Julie Jensen's letter was finally ruled admissible and a trial date was set.

The Trial

Mark Jensen was accused of murder in the first degree, and nine years after his wife's death he was the focus of a high-profile trial shown live on cable television and the Internet.

Attorney General Bob Jambois argued that the man poisoned his wife with anti-freeze and then suffocated her so he could start a new life with his mistress. Kelly LaBonte moved into the Jensen household shortly after Julie Jensen's death, and she and Mark Jensen were married in 2002.

The suffocation argument was a shift in the case that came after Aaron Dillard, a jailhouse informant with an extensive criminal record, came forward. Mark Jensen and Dillard were housed together in a Wisconsin jail, and Dillard said the suspect told him that he had fed his wife juice mixed with anti-freeze but that "[Julie] wouldn't die fast enough." Dillard testified that the suspect told him his sons saw their mother having difficulty breathing and "wanted to take her to the hospital. He told me he got scared. And that's when he rolled her over and sat on her back, pushed her face into the pillow."

In his exclusive interview with "20/20" Dillard said Mark told him a different story initially. Mark said "that she [Julie] poisoned herself with antifreeze and she tried to commit suicide, that basically her whole family was crazy, and she followed the same footsteps." But then, Dillard said, "it started spilling out" after Dillard made a comment about how "all of us have some problem in our life."

"He [Mark] was teary-eyed talkin' about his kids. And that's when I ... brought in the point of we all did what we did to get here. And then he ... that's when he came out with and started telling me more about what he did."

According to Dillard, Mark's demeanor during his purported jailhouse confession was unemotional. "He didn't show any sorrow about his wife been [sic] dead. He didn't. About her passing away. About any of it."

At the trial, defense Attorney Craig Albee quickly attacked Dillard's testimony, and got him to admit he was a con-man on the stand. Albee said simply to the jury, "You heard Aaron Dillard is a liar. You cannot believe him beyond a reasonable doubt."

Witness after witness came forward to talk about Julie Jensen's character and when it was time for Ted Wojt to take the stand he told the jury that Jensen believed her husband was trying to kill her. Ted testified that she had seen him "on poison sites" on the Internet. He believed she thought her husband was "trying to make me look crazy, to take my kids." Julie Jensen took her suspicions to the police before she died but, without proof, her husband was not questioned.

Julie Jensen had filed for divorce years earlier but Julie's brother Paul testified that Mark told Julie she would never see their sons again if she went through with it.

Defense attorney Craig Albee told the jury that "facts will prove that Mark Jensen did not kill his wife. Depression and despair caused [Julie] to taken her own life." Albee continued to tell the jury that Julie framed Mark by leaving the letter making it look like he harmed her because "her depression and her despair and her anger and her delusional thinking caused her to point the finger at Mark."

Dr. Richard Borman, Julie's long-time physician, testified that she came to see him days before her death and that he was worried. "She was highly upset. It was burned into my mind. I'd never seen her look like that. She was distraught, almost frantic, actually," he said. Borman said Julie was concerned about her family's previous history with mental illness, particularly her mother's life-long struggle with alcoholism and serious depression. Borman prescribed her Paxil and Ambien.

Life in Prison

Ultimately, the jury did not believe that Julie committed suicide. The prosecution's case ran five weeks and the defense took just five days. Mark did not take the stand in his defense.

The jury took four days to deliberate and before a packed courtroom, the foreman read a verdict of guilty in the murder of Julie Jensen.

Albee said he's "convinced the jury reached the wrong decision" and is "hopeful that Mark will get a new trial."

On Wednesday Mark Jensen, 48, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Currently he is in jail. In the meantime, Julie's two sons, ages 18 and 13, are being raised by his wife and former mistress.

 
 

Husband gets life without parole in 'letter from the grave' case

  • Mark Jensen sentenced for poisoning wife with antifreeze
     

  • Victim's posthumous letter led jurors to verdict
     

  • Defense portrayed victim as depressed wife who committed suicide

CNN.com

February 27, 2008

The Wisconsin man accused of poisoning his wife with antifreeze and convicted of murdering her was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Mark Jensen, 48, was found guilty Thursday in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, of killing his wife, Julie Jensen, in 1998.

The prosecution said the murder culminated years of torment.

"Your crime is so enormous, so monstrous, so unspeakably cruel that it overcomes all other considerations," Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder said before pronouncing the sentence.

Prosecutors contended that Jensen poisoned his 40-year-old wife with antifreeze and then suffocated her in 1998, but the defense argued that Julie Jensen was a depressed woman who killed herself and framed her husband.

Julie Jensen had given a neighbor a letter pointing an accusing finger at her husband should anything happen to her.

She also made foreboding comments to police and to her son's teacher, saying she suspected her husband was trying to kill her.

Her letter, read aloud in court, said in part: "I pray I'm wrong + nothing happens ... but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors + fear for my early demise."

The case turned on the admissibility of the letter, which would have been considered unusable "hearsay" evidence if Schroeder had not ruled that it was a "dying declaration." In such cases, the defendant has no opportunity to face his accuser.

After the verdict, jurors told reporters that the letter gave them "a clear road map" to conviction, as one female juror phrased it.

Another female juror said he believed Mark Jensen was trying to push his wife over the edge. "He tortured Julie hoping she could be classically diagnosed as a nutcase," she said.

Several of the jurors were in the court gallery for the sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Jensen, dressed in blue jail fatigues, sat stoically while Julie Jensen's four brothers asked for the harshest possible sentence.

"I hope the court shows the same mercy and compassion that the defendant showed our sister," Patrick Griffin, the victim's youngest brother, said.

But Jensen's chin quivered and his eyes watered when his attorney read a letter from Jensen's two sons, David and Douglas.

"He never failed to support us throughout this ordeal," the sons wrote in requesting mercy for their father. "... If anyone in this world is the epitome of loyalty, it is our dad."

 
 

Jensen Sentenced To Life Without Parole

Katie DeLong - Associated Press

February 27, 2008

KENOSHA - A man convicted of poisoning and suffocating his wife was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole.

"I've come to the conclusion that if I were to impose anything less than the maximum sentence in this case, I'd feel I had cheated the other people because your crime is so enormous, so monstrous, so unspeakably cruel, that it overcomes all other considerations," Judge Bruce Schroeder said.

Mark Jensen, 48, trembled slightly as the sentence was read but did not cry. He was found guilty last week of first-degree intentional homicide, a crime that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Only the decision on whether he was eligible for parole was left to the judge.

Julie Jensen, 40, was found dead in her home on Dec. 3, 1998, after being sick for a few days. Prosecutors said she was poisoned with antifreeze and then suffocated.

Mark Jensen claimed his wife was depressed and killed herself, framing him for her death.

The couple's sons, David and Douglas Jensen, submitted a letter before the sentencing, expressing their belief that Mark Jensen was innocent and asking the judge to give him parole as soon as possible. They described him holding them after their mother died and working to support the family.

"If we ever need help, advice or just someone to talk to, we know we can go to him for anything," said the letter read by Jensen's attorney, Craig Albee.

Julie Jensen's four brothers also spoke.

Patrick Griffin talked about his grief over her death and anger that Mark Jensen was able to start a successful construction business while out on bail and remarry. He described his "disgust" at hearing a witness testify that Mark Jensen tired of waiting for the poison to work and suffocated his wife.

"I hope the court shows the same compassion and mercy to the defendant that he showed to our sister Julie," he said. "So be it."

Prosecutor Robert Jambois spoke after the brothers, saying Mark Jensen had tormented his wife with pornographic pictures and accusations of infidelity and then moved his own girlfriend into his house before his wife's wake.

"Mark Jensen treated his wife the way some demented people torture small animals or pick the wings off flies," he said. He asked the judge to not give him a chance at parole or set a parole date "so far in the future that it's not possible that it could be within Mark Jensen's lifetime."

Albee argued for parole, describing Jensen as a hardworking and law-abiding citizen who was needed by his sons.

"He's always been employed. He's been an excellent father to his children," Albee said. "Even neighbors who were extremely biased against Mr. Jensen recognized he was a loving father from all of their observations."

Julie Jensen had suspected for some time that her husband of 14 years was plotting against her, so she left a note with a neighbor to be given to police if she died.

"I pray that I am wrong and nothing happens, but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors and fear for my early demise," she wrote.

At the time, Mark Jensen was having an affair with a woman he has since married.

Until recent years, using evidence such as the letter in court was virtually unheard of because of constitutional guarantees giving criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers.

But the Wisconsin Supreme Court created new evidence rules, guided by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that laid the groundwork for the use of Julie Jensen's letter and statements to police. The trial judge determined last year that the letter and statements should be allowed at trial.

Albee has said there would be an appeal in the case, but he didn't know if he would handle it.

Attorneys are waiting for a decision in a California case being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April. Legal experts say if the court overturns that conviction, it could pave the way for Mark Jensen to get a new trial.

In that case, Dwayne Giles was convicted of killing his former girlfriend, Brenda Avie. The jury heard statements that Avie made to a police officer a few weeks before her death, describing an assault by Giles and his threat to kill her.

Giles' appeal argues Avie's statements should not have been allowed because Giles' lawyer never had an opportunity to cross-examine her.

Text Of Julie Jensen's Letter

The following is the text of a letter Julie Jensen wrote and gave to a neighbor indicating that she believed her husband was trying to kill her. According to prosecutors, the "list" of which Jensen wrote was a recipe for poison.

Jensen wrote the letter on Nov. 21, 1998 and was found dead in her home on Dec. 3, 1998.

Pleasant Prairie Police Department, Ron Kosman or Detective Ratzenburg-

I took this picture + am writing this on Saturday 11-21-98 at 7AM. This "list" was in my husband's business daily planner -- not meant for me to see. I don't know what it means, but if anything happens to me, he would be my first suspect. Our relationship has deteriorated to the polite superficial. I know he's never forgiven me for the brief affair I had with that creep seven years ago. Mark lives for work + the kids; he's an avid surfer of the Internet...

Anyway -- I do not smoke or drink. My mother was an alcoholic, so I limit my drinking to one or two a week. Mark wants me to drink more with him in the evenings. I don't. I would never take my life because of my kids -- they are everything to me! I regularly take Tylenol + multi-vitamins; occassionally [sic] take OTC stuff for colds; Zantac, or Immodium; have one prescrption for migraine tablets, which more use more than I.

I pray I'm wrong + nothing happens... but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors + fear for my early demise. However I will not leave [edited] + [edited]. My life's greatest love, accomplishment and wish: "My 3 D's -- Daddy (Mark), [edited] + [edited].

Julie C. Jensen

 
 

Wife Predicts Own Murder

Mark Jensen Charged With Poisoning Julie Jensen With Antifreeze

Wisn.com

June 25, 2003

Wis.A Pleasant Prairie man charged with poisoning and killing his wife with antifreeze was in court Wednesday morning to ask a judge to keep his wife's statements predicting her death from the jury.

A decision will be announced in September, but Julie Jensen's friends talked to 12 News about what happened in 1998.

It's been five years since the neighbors watched the rescue squads converge on the Jensens' Pleasant Prairie home. They waited in the driveway for word.

"I said, "You have to tell me. These are our friends and neighbors,' and then the policeman said, 'She didn't make it.' So it's like, it was just complete shock," Julie Jensen's friend Ruth said.

It made no sense -- their perfectly healthy friend, Julie, dead at age 40. A little later, Julie's husband, Mark, walked outside to talk to the gathering of friends.

"Mark's comment was, 'She's gone,' and I said, 'Mark, what happened?'" Ruth said.

"It was a total shock, just couldn't believe it," Julie's friend, Marion, said.

Four-and-a-half years later, the girlfriends in Julie's book club are still stunned, but if they found her death shocking, it appears Julie Jensen did not.

In the days before she died, Julie told a neighbor and one of her son's teachers she feared her husband planned to poison her.

Days after she died, a neighbor handed police an envelope that contained a letter Julie had asked him to turn it over if anything happened to her.

It said: "This 'list' was in my husband's business daily planner. I don't know what it means, but if anything happens to me, he would be my first suspect."

She had photographed the list, which included the notes, "own drug supply, librium, booze, razor blades, syringe."

Julie wrote on, "Our relationship has deteriorated to the polite superficial. I know he's never forgiven me for the brief affair I had with that creep seven years ago."

The letter came as a shock to her close friends.

"They certainly seemed happy, but I know she didn't do it, and I'd like to think he didn't do it," Julie's friend Carrie, said.

Prosecutors didn't charge Julie's husband with her murder until three years later. They said it took that long to collect the evidence they say proves he plotted, then poisoned his wife with antifreeze.

"We just were always waiting for an answer. We didn't want that to be the answer," Carrie said.

A judge freed Mark Jensen on bail, but the allegations of infidelity and murder rocked the calm upscale lakefront community.

Investigators seized Jensen's computer, which offered prosecutors a possible motive for Julie's murder -- evidence of an affair between Mark Jensen and his now-live-in fiancee, e-mails indicating he'd visited her in St. Louis where they'd met on business.

This is what an e-mail said:

Mark Jensen: "Was great just hanging out. Got a few looks and questions about being in St. Louis -- all covered."

Fiancee: "If you continue to be a good boy maybe you'll get what you wish for."

Neighbors said they started spotting the other woman at the Jensen home shortly after Julie's death.

"She was there overnight within two weeks because I saw her pull away at 6 a.m.," one of Julie's friends said.

Police said more evidence shows that Mark spent six weeks online plotting to poison Julie. They found hits on Web sites about botulism and physician-assisted suicide. In the week before Julie's death, they found several hits on sites about antifreeze poisoning.

Police said when they confronted Jensen about the antifreeze in his wife's system, he changed his story and said Julie had been suicidal and didn't want him to call for help as she lay dying in their bedroom.

Prosecutors now expect suicide to be Jensen's defense -- a suggestion even Julie denies in death.

In her note to police, she wrote, "I would never take my life because of my kids. They are everything to me."

Mark Jensen has spent more than $150,000 on legal fees.

 
 

Mark Jensen Pleads Not Guilty To Killing His Wife

Friends Say Julie Jensen Feared Her Husband Would Hurt Her

Wisn.com

June 19, 2002

Wis.Mark Jensen, accused of using antifreeze to poison and kill his wife, claims he didn't do it.

Jensen didn't say anything when he appeared in Kenosha County court Wednesday, but his lawyer said Jensen's not guilty of killing his wife in 1998.

A neighbor said Jensen's 40-year-old wife, Julie, gave him a sealed letter and told him to take it to police if anything ever happened to her.

In that note, Julie said her husband would be the prime suspect.

She also said that her husband had never forgiven her for an extramarital affair.

Friends said Julie Jensen feared her husband was going to poison her, saying she found documents on a home computer about poisonous chemicals. She was found lying face down in her bed, poisoned with antifreeze four years ago.

Mark Jensen's attorney said Julie was depressed and may have killed herself.

 
 

Arrest Made In 1998 Poisoning Death

Mark Jensen Charged With First-Degree Homicide

Wisn.com

March 20, 2002

Wis.A nearly four-year investigation into the death of a Pleasant Prairie, Wis., woman has ended with the arrest of her husband.

Police arrested the 42-year-old stockbroker Wednesday morning at his Kenosha home. He was charged Wednesday afternoon with first-degree intentional homicide.

Friends and neighbors described Julie Jensen as a stay-at-home mom devoted to family, but according to a criminal complaint, she told friends her marriage to Mark Jensen was in trouble, and she was worried he'd poison her.

Toxicology reports that could prove Julie Jensen was poisoned finally all came together earlier this week.

"It was information we needed from the city crime lab. It was information we needed from pathologists. It was information we needed from the toxicologists. All of this information has filtered into our office the past several months, and it all came together earlier this week," Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Jambois said.

Police said Mark Jensen poisoned his wife with a chemical commonly used in antifreeze.

According to the criminal complaint, Julie Jensen was worried her husband would hurt her and reportedly told several friends.

Defense attorneys said this case is based strictly on circumstantial evidence.

Cash bail has been set for Jensen at $500,000.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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