By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
— When Jennifer Nibbe’s murder case goes to trial in July, it will start in Blue Earth County and jurors will be allowed to watch a video showing her admitting to murdering her husband, according to a judge’s order.
Nibbe, 35, is accused of shooting her husband to death in their home south of Lake Crystal on Aug. 31, 2010. She called 911 that morning to report an intruder shot 26-year-old James Nibbe, attacked her, then fled the house.
She was eventually arrested after investigators couldn’t find any evidence of an intruder but did find a large life insurance policy had been taken out for James Nibbe.
Jennifer Nibbe was scheduled to go to trial in April, but the trial was delayed after her attorneys and prosecutors filed several motions.
Nibbe’s defense attorneys asked District Court Judge Bradley Walker to dismiss the charges, arguing that the grand jurors who decided there was enough evidence to charge Nibbe with first-degree murder heard evidence they shouldn’t have and didn’t hear evidence they should have.
They also asked Walker to move the case to another county because potential jurors in Blue Earth County have heard too much about the case through media reports, including a television report that played a portion of Nibbe’s interview with investigators. The television report didn’t include the portion of the video where Nibbe admitted to holding a rifle to her husband’s head and pulling the trigger.
Walker denied both of those motions in an order filed Thursday. He said Rich Hillesheim, Nibbe’s lead attorney, didn’t provide enough evidence to show that a prosecutor did anything to keep the grand jury from reaching an independent conclusion about the case.
In response to the other motion, Walker said:
“The Court denies the defendant’s motion for change of venue at this time based upon its sound judgment that a fair trial consisting of (jurors) free from media influence of this case can still be achieved in Blue Earth County.”
Hillesheim also had asked Walker to reconsider an earlier order that denied a request to dismiss the charges because evidence was allegedly destroyed by investigators. He was referring to adult magazines and other items that were found at the house and in Jim Nibbe’s pickup truck.
Walker’s order said, at this point, none of the evidence appears to be relevant to the case. He didn’t rule against the jury hearing about the evidence, and the fact that it’s now gone, if relevance can be shown later.
Walker also said he would wait until later to rule on a request by Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney to keep Nibbe from using a defense saying she killed her husband in the heat of passion. The order said Walker is waiting because Hillesheim is still gathering information that will need to be reviewed before a ruling is issued.