MANKATO (TEC News) – Until last Wednesday it was the best kept secret in the murder investigation of James Nibbe.
His wife had confessed to shooting him.
That bit of information had been kept from only a very few until Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott made that revelation during a hearing where the attorney for Jennifer Lee Nibbe was arguing to have various statements to law enforcement suppressed.
The judge has yet to rule on those motions and it could be several months before Judge Bradley Walker makes his decision.
At question is should detectives have read Jennifer Nibbe her rights during multiple interviews in the days after the shooting.
Nibbe had called 9-1-1, saying an intruder had shot her husband and then tried to sexually assault her.
She even had the cuts from a knife to prove it.
Public defender Rich Hillesheim also wants the judge to throw out the interview with detectives after her arrest, arguing police knew she had an attorney and should not have spoken with her.
But as we now know, despite asking for an attorney the day before, it was Jennifer Nibbe who reached out to detectives to apparently come clean about her involvement in the murder of her husband.
Three Eagles Radio News on Friday examined hundreds of pages supplement reports and transcripts of law enforcement interviews with Jennifer Lee Nibbe.
During her confession, Nibbe goes into great detail about how she shot James Nibbe.
But just as interesting is how law enforcement handled their interviews with Nibbe leading up to her spilling her guts ten days after the shooting.
Blue Earth County Sheriff Detective Paul Barta was asked by the prosecution to provide an outline of their contacts with Jennifer Nibbe during the time leading up to her confession.
We’ll use it to guide you through the investigation.
It’s the diary of a confession.
August 31, 2010
This is the time Jennifer Lee Nibbe placed a 9-1-1 call to Blue Earth County Dispatch. Her story was that her husband James had been shot by an intruder and she had been attacked.
It was a dark and rainy morning.
Sheriff Brad Peterson is the first to arrive on scene.
Detective Paul Barta speaks to Jennifer Nibbe in his car.
In a supplemental report Barta says his first contact with Jennifer Nibbe was inside the home. He notes she was wearing a tank top and shorts.
She had blood on her hands and shirt.
He took Nibbe outside to a squad car where he recorded his interview.
Nibbe said she was in a bathroom connected to their master bedroom. She was brushing her teeth and had the bathroom door closed so the light wouldn’t disturb her sleeping husband.
That’s when Nibbe told Barta she heard a “loud noise” and opened the bathroom door to see a man standing over James Nibbe with a shot gun. Nibbe say the man pointed the gun at her and pulled the trigger, but the gun “didn’t go off.” Nibbe says she screamed and the man grabbed her by the shirt and back of head. He took her to the living room with a rope around her neck and the man had a knife.
On top of her on the living room floor, Nibbe says the man told her “You’re a lucky bitch”, got off her and fled out a door.
BCA Special Agent (SA) Micheal Anderson enters the investigation at this point.
Anderson speaks with Jennifer Nibbe in front of the home where he conducted a gun shot residue (GSR) test on Nibbe. In his supplemental report, SA Anderson notes he took a GSR test from Nibbe’s son Brady Brown an hour later.
At 9:05 a.m., Blue Earth County law enforcement secure the scene and wait until a search warrant to process the crime scene can be obtained. The BCA Crime Scene Team arrived that afternoon at 1:30 p.m. to begin gathering physical evidence.
BCA Special Agent Ben Rittmiller follows Jennifer Nibbe to the hospital as she is transported by Deputy Scott Wolfe.
In his supplemental report, SA Rittmiller says he went with Nibbe to ISJ Hospital in Mankato for a physical exam to treat her injuries and collect evidence.
SART Nurse Tess Johnson started the exam of Nibbe at 8:41 a.m. SART stands for Sexual Assault Response Team. Rittmiller says he was outside the exam room door when another ER nurse entered to “offer support” for Nibbe.
Nibbe herself was a surgical nurse at the Mankato Surgical Center..
The ER nurse entered and left and eventually returned with Nibbe’s cousin Kerry Erickson who was allowed to enter the exam room for a short time before Rittmiller says he then told her to leave.
The exam ended at 10:20 a.m.
Detective Barta and SA Anderson then took Nibbe from the hospital to the Blue Earth County Justice Center for what Barta described in another supplemental report as a “non-custodial” interview.
Nibbe was not under arrest and was told she could leave at any time.
According to Barta, once they arrived at the Justice Center and before they left the car, Anderson told Nibbe there may be “speculation about Brady Brown’s involvement given the circumstance.”
They entered the facility for the interview.
In what was entered into evidence on Wednesday as “Exhibit 6”, SA Anderson begins to question Nibbe about what happened at their home less than six hours earlier.
According to a transcript of the interview, Anderson had Nibbe draw a diagram of their home. She was asked to place an “X” where she was and an “S” where the suspect was. She drew a bed and drew which side James would sleep on.
Nibbe told Anderson her husband “sleeps like a log.”
“I kiss him every morning good bye,” Nibble told Anderson. “And he never remembers it.”
Nibbe goes on to describe hearing the loud noise, opening the door and seeing the man.
“I mean, I’m screaming at him you know ,don’t, don’t kill me, you know?” said Nibbe.
Anderson’s interview continued, asking Nibbe “What happened after the person left?”
“I ran back to the bedroom, to Jim (crying), “ said Nibbe. “and I seen all the blood and, and stuff (unaudible/crying.”
During the interview Nibbe would deny that either of them used drugs, including prescription medications.
Nibbe also maintained James had been faithful to her and didn’t have a girlfriend.
“And the same thing for you?” asked Anderson. “Not another man in the picture?”
“No.” said Nibbe.
“Anything like that? Nothing else?” Anderson asked.
“No.” said Nibbe.
Both Barta and Anderson excuse themselves from the interview room. Nibbe takes a bathroom break. Anderson returns to the room with some chips for Nibbe.
It was then you get the first sign that investigators are not buying Nibbe’s story of an intruder.
They question the timing of the shooting. Anderson told Nibbe is was strange that her husband would be shot after both of them were shooting targets with the same gun the night before.
“You know, that’s winning the lottery,” Anderson told Nibbe. “the motive is another problem.” Nobody…nobody has a motive.”
It was then Anderson also told Nibbe about the problems there were having with her intruder story.
“It rained…rained hard. There’s no track on the road,” said Anderson.
“You know this for sure?” asked Nibbe.
“No muddy footprints in the house,” concluded Anderson.
Anderson then started talking to Nibbe about her wounds.
“Things don’t add up Jennifer,” Anderson told Nibbe.
“I’ve investigated hundreds of crimes. Sexual assaults, homicides, I’ve seen all kinds of wounds. These wounds on your body are self-inflicted. Okay?”
“Those wounds were not attack, they’re the wrong direction. The angle is wrong for somebody on top of you with a knife. It doesn’t fit, “ said Anderson.
“Are you telling me I made this up?” asked Nibbe.
“Mm-hmm” said Anderson. “I’m concerned there’s more going on here than you’re saying, Yes.”
Then Nibbe asks for help.
“Wow, can I have an attorney,” asked Nibbe.
Anderson then tells Nibble that she isn’t under arrest and can leave to talk to someone.
But Anderson continues to talk to Nibbe and reveal all of law enforcement’s suspicions.
“The scene is staged, Okay?” said Anderson.
Nibbe again mentions a lawyer.
“So, do you think I had anything to do with this? I need to get a lawyer,” said Nibbe.
Anderson then tells Nibbe is was okay if she chose not to cooperate.
Nibbe earlier had told investigators that there were no marriage problems, but already Anderson relays to Nibbe that they know that isn’t true. Anderson cites another investigator’s conversation with Nibbe’s cousin Kerry Anderson who said there were problems.
The justice center interview ends with law enforcement driving Nibbe back to Lake Crystal.
September 1, 2010
Detective Paul Barta says the day starts with a message from Nibbe’s cousin Kerry Erickson who is asking for items from the home on behalf of Nibbe.
Barta returns the call and sets up a meeting with Erickson and Nibbe to get a list of the items.
But investigators use the meeting to interview Nibbe again.
At this point Barta and Anderson tell Nibbe they know the knife is from her home. They also tell Nibbe they now know about a life insurance policy in her husband’s name. And despite Nibbe telling them earlier there were no other men in her life, they tell her they know about Edward Erickson, the brother-in-law of her cousin Kerry.
Nibbe tells investigators that they had started “flirting” and admitted the possibility of meeting with Ed Erickson was “intriguing” and had almost met on a Thursday.
Nibbe told investigators she liked the attention, but the two never physically acted on it.
Investigators know about sexually explicit photos sent between Nibbe and Erickson and texting about oral sex.
The conversation in the porch of Kerry Erickson home moved to more details about the morning of the assault.
Investigators wanted to know how dark it was in the house.
Were there lights on in the living room? Was there any light from the yard light? Where did the rope come from that the intruder used around her neck?
They also asked about Nibbe’s story about their dog.
Nibbe said before going to the bathroom to get ready for the day that she put the dog out. Nibbe said the dog was going crazy outside during her attack, but said she didn’t hear the dog prior to her husband being shot.
Nibbe told investigators that the dog barks at cars and not people and will usually stop barking once the car stops in their yards. Investigators seemed to be wondering why the dog wasn’t barking when the intruder entered the home, but was after the gun shot.
The interview ended with detectives telling Nibbe they’d see what they could do about the list of things she needed from the home, which was still a crime scene.
Detectives would have several contacts will Nibbe in the coming days.
September 2, 2010
S.A. Anderson executes a search warrant for DNA and “major case” finger prints from Nibbe.
September 5, 2010
Jennifer Nibbe leaves Det. Paul Barta a voice message inquiring about a wedding video on a computer seized as evidence. She also names an ex-boyfriend as a potential suspect.
September 7, 2010
Det. Barta received the message left by Nibbe on 9/5/10 and returns the call that morning.
September 10, 2010
The Arrest of Jennifer Nibbe
A transcript of the recording of the arrest of Jennifer Nibbe shows she was shocked by the arrest.
It also shows she was given Miranda, asked for an attorney and there was no conversation on the way to the Justice Center after asking for an attorney.
Special Agent Micheal Anderson (MA) and Detective Paul Barta (PB) made the arrest with the help of other law enforcement in the parking lot of the Manakto Surgery Center. Jennifer Nibbe’s (JN) cousin Kerry Erickson (KE) was with her.
It was 2:38 p.m.
MA: “You’re under arrest.”
MA: “You’re under arrest, listen to the deputy.”
PB: “I’m just going to place these cuffs on you, Jen.”
JN: “Oh my God.”
KE: “Jen I Love You.”
PB: “OK, I just gotta double lock ‘em and ther’re gonna tighten up on ya so give me a second here.”
JN: “Oh my God.”
Special Agent Micheal Anderson can be heard talking to Nibbe during the ride.”
“You know I know there was no intruder in the house,” said Anderson. “If you care for your son, you can’t let people think that he had anything to do with this, Okay.”
Then Anderson read Nibbe her rights.
MA: “And having these rights in mind are you willing to speak with me about this?”
JN: “About what?”
MA: “About this incident with your husband.”
JN: “Not without my lawyer present.”
September, 11, 2010
The day following the arrest of Jennifer Nibbe, Detective Paul Barta received a call from jail staff saying Nibbe had requested to speak with him and Anderson.
Barta and Anderson arrive at the justice center and at 5:05 p.m. they begin their interview with Nibbe.
According to transcripts, they read Nibbe Miranda again and asked her if she understood her rights.
Nibbe asked about a court appointed attorney but agreed to proceed without one.
“I just want this all to go away” said Nibbe. “I know it’s not going to.”
The conversation between detectives and suspect started with Nibble admitting to a serious addiction to pain pills, using up to 180 per week.
“I call prescriptions in myself. I’m just so ashamed.”
Nibbe told them the addition to Tramadal started when she injured an ankle and it began shortly before her marriage to James.
But the addiction was getting expensive and Nibbe says her husband was no help paying bills.
“Cuz I had to pay for those…And you know it wasn’t cheap…” said Nibbe about her drug habit. “I also had to pay for everything else.”
“I just, my life wasn’t…this isn’t how it was supposed to go,” lamented Nibbe.
The Nibbe began her confession to Barta and Anderson.
“I never wanted to hurt anybody, But I’m an honest person and I’m not a liar,” said Nibbe.
“I can’t face anybody. How do you face somebody when you’ve done something like this.”
“It was like I was there but when I…I wasn’t” said Nibbe.
Nibbe said she felt like “he was the devil” and she needed to get rid of him.
“Was there voices telling you that,” asked Anderson. “Did you feel like you were hallucinating?”
“I don’t…I don’t know,” answered Nibbe.
Nibbe then expressed remorse for the harm she causes and worried how her son was going to react.
“He’s a good kid. Oh God he’s a good kid. This is going to kill him.”
“It was horrible. It was horrible,” confessed Nibbe. “Once it happened, I thought Oh my God, what did I do, what did I do.”
Nibbe then described to investigators that she tried to make it look like someone came in and hurt her.
During the assorted interviews during the course of the investigation, Special Agent Anderson would refer to Nibbe’s son as being a possible suspect and that Nibbe should protect him or do right by him.
During her confession Nibbe wanted investigators to know that her son had nothing to do with the crime and was also not involved in setting up the scene after the fact.
“I swear. I swear on my life I swear.”
Anderson then asked Nibbe to explain the truthful details about what happened.
“So, oh it just makes me sick even thinking about it.”
Nibbe said she had been up all night prior to doing it.
“Ohh, its been killing me since the day it happened,” Nibbe told detectives.
She fell asleep at 12:30 a.m., woke up at 4:30 a.m., but shut her alarm off.
She woke up in a panic at 5:30 a.m.
Nibbe described going to get the gun and loading one shell into it.
While going to the bedroom where James Nibbe was sleeping, Nibbe told investigators that she just kept telling herself that he was the devil.
Her plan was to rest the barrel of the gun on his shoulder but she was “shaking so bad” she was afraid it would wake him up.
So Nibble said she grabbed a throw blanket from the foot of the bed, bunched it up and put it on her husband’s back to rest the barrel of the gun on.
She pulled the trigger, according to transcripts.
Nibbe stated she checked for a pulse and couldn’t find one.
She admitted to staging the scene by moving a chair and placing a rope and knife from the kitchen on the floor.
“God if I could give it back in a heartbeat I would,” said Nibbe.
“What?” answered Anderson.
“If I could give him my life I would,” explained Nibbe.
The confession interview lasted 62 minutes and ended by Nibbe stating she just wanted her family and James’ family to know she was sorry.
“I don’t know how I’m going to live with this for the rest of my life,” said Nibbe. “ don’t know how (crying).
Her trial is expected to begin in April 2012.