If Jennifer Nibbe goes to trial for the 2010 murder of her husband, a jury will be allowed to hear almost everything she told investigators during interviews that took place before she was arrested 10 days after the shooting.
What the jury will be allowed to hear includes everything Nibbe said during a confession she provided to two investigators after spending her first night in jail.
District Court Judge Bradley Walker issued an order this week after hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides of the case during a November hearing. The order also denied a request by Nibbe’s attorney to have the charges dismissed because potential evidence was destroyed or never examined.
James Nibbe, 26, was found dead in the Nibbes’ house south of Lake Crystal the morning of Aug. 31, 2010, after Jennifer Nibbe, 34, called 911 to report an intruder had shot him. He had been shot in the back of the head while lying in bed.
During an interview with a detective at the scene, Nibbe said the intruder also attempted to shoot her. She said she was choked and cut by the intruder after the gun, which was owned by the Nibbes, failed to fire. Jennifer Nibbe’s teen son, Brady Brown, was sleeping in the basement until she woke him during the 911 call, she reported.
After investigators couldn’t find signs of a fleeing intruder in the muddy ground outside, Nibbe was brought to the Blue Earth County Justice Center for an interview after her injuries were checked at the hospital.
The two detectives who interviewed her made it clear, after about 90 minutes of questioning, that they didn’t believe her story and she was a suspect in the case. At that point Nibbe had reason to feel she could have been restrained from leaving, even though the investigators said she was free to leave at any time, because they had her in a small interrogation room and were sitting in front of the door, Walker said in his ruling.
Nibbe also asked to talk to an attorney at that point, so anything said from that point on during that interview will not be admissible during a trial, Walker said.
She didn’t say much after that, anyway, he added. She did say she had been handling the murder weapon the night before the shooting, so her fingerprints and DNA could be on the gun.
Nibbe had been with deputies continually, including her trip to the hospital, since they had responded to her 911 call. Anyone who has been under police observation for that long, and told they are a suspected murderer, could reach the conclusion they are under arrest, Walker concluded.
“Given all the circumstances, (Nibbe) became in-custody once the officers ceased getting information from her and began targeting her as the prime suspect and asking her to explain what they believed was a fictitious story,” Walker said in his 61-page ruling.
Nibbe was eventually told she could go home. Walker said at that point Nibbe “became out of custody.” The detectives allowed her to leave the room and move about the Law Enforcement Center freely while she waited for them to give her a ride home.
Detectives talked to Nibbe during the ride home and again the following day at the house where she was staying. She initiated that meeting by asking how she and her son could get items from their house. During the meeting, the detectives had more questions about her initial report. They also asked Nibbe about sexually explicit texts that had been found on her cellphone. The texts had been exchanged between her and a male acquaintance.
Nibbe was arrested and jailed Sept. 10 after being charged for murdering her husband. The following day she asked a jailer to contact the detectives who had interviewed her the first day because she wanted to talk to them. When they arrived, she confessed to shooting her husband and admitted to lying about an intruder. She also told the investigators she had been abusing prescription drugs.
Although the investigators had earlier implied her son could be wrongly accused for the murder, Walker said he doesn’t believe those statements somehow coerced Nibbe into making a confession. Walker watched a video recording of the confession before issuing his ruling.
“It is obvious to this court (Nibbe) was feeling very remorseful about the incident and wanted to explain her state of mind to law enforcement, including her drug history, which was not previously disclosed,” Walker said.
It also didn’t matter Nibbe didn’t have her attorney with her during the confession because she had waived her right to counsel, Walker added. She also hadn’t yet made an initial appearance in court for the charges.
Hillesheim also argued during the November hearing that the charges should be dismissed because evidence was missing. He cited pornography that was destroyed, at the suggestion of a deputy, after it was found in the Nibbes’ house. Hillesheim also said investigators hadn’t sufficiently tested blood spatters on Jennifer Nibbe’s clothing and the clothing Brown was wearing the morning of the murder.
Walker said he wouldn’t dismiss the charges because the pornography wasn’t found until after Nibbe had confessed. During that confession, Nibbe didn’t mention the pornography or how it would have contributed to the shooting.
Investigators also had no reason to test Brown’s clothing, Walker added.
“Law enforcement had no reason to believe (Nibbe’s) son was involved in this crime after the extensive interviews with various potential witnesses in this case, including (Nibbe’s) statements, which clearly indicate her son had nothing to do with the murder.”