Julie Jensen's Letter Points Finger at Mark
Mark Jensen | Photo: Today's TMJ 4
ELKHORN, Wis. (AP) -- A dead woman's letter pointing the finger at her husband is one piece of a jigsaw puzzle that proves he poisoned her, a prosecutor said Monday as Mark Jensen's trial began. His defense said it only shows she wanted to frame him for her suicide.
Jensen, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Julie Jensen, who was found dead of poisoning in 1998 at her home in Pleasant Prairie, a suburb of Kenosha just north of the Illinois border.
"I pray that I am wrong and nothing happens, but I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors and fear for my early demise," Julie Jensen said in the letter read in court by Special Prosecutor Robert Jambois.
She had given the letter to a neighbor and told him to give it to police if anything happened to her. It mentions her two young sons: "I will not leave David + Douglas. My life's greatest love, accomplishment and wish. ..."
Julie Jensen, 40, was found dead in her home Dec. 3, 1998. Mark Jensen was charged in 2002, but legal wrangling over evidence delayed the trial.
During opening statements, defense attorney Craig Albee said Julie Jensen asked no one for help in the days before her death, but only warned them to look at her husband if she were to die. Her actions were done to frame her husband, he said.
"What protection does a letter provide? 'Open it after my death.' That's out of the movies," Albee said.
Julie Jensen saw therapists at least three times for depression and had a history of depression in her family, Albee said. The most recent therapist noted that before she died she went to him frantic and crying and he feared for her condition, Albee said.
Julie Jensen knew her husband was having an affair with a co-worker, he said.
"Her depression and her despair and her anger and her delusional thinking caused her to point her finger at Mark," Albee said.
The prosecution alleges Mark Jensen poisoned his wife with at least two doses of ethylene glycol, commonly used as antifreeze, so he could be with a girlfriend he has since married.
Julie Jensen was sick for three days before she died. When she seemed to be improving at one point, Mark Jensen rolled her on her side and sat on her, pushing her face into a pillow and suffocating her, Jambois said, a tidbit that came to light this summer from an inmate who said Jensen confided to him in jail.
Then he plotted with another inmate to arrange for someone to "sit on" the co-worker until after the trial, Jambois said.
Albee said neither of the men was credible, and one had tried to extort money from Jensen.
The first witness called was Dr. Michael Chambliss, who did the initial autopsy. He found evidence that Julie Jensen had ingested ethylene glycol and evidence of asphyxia but could not determine a cause of death, he said.
He also found soft tissue damage outside Julie Jensen's ribs. Jambois tried to prove this was consistent with her arm under her as she was found, allegedly proving Mark Jensen sat on her. But Chambliss admitted on cross examination that the damage and other bruises could have occurred after she died during transport.
Jambois said Mark Jensen planned the killing for months, doing Internet searches to find Web sites on poisoning about two months before Julie Jensen's death. The defense has said Julie Jensen did the searches herself in preparation for her suicide.
Albee said some forensic work done by the state is unreliable -- one poison expert said he found 22 ounces in Jensen's stomach, but it was later determined only half of a teaspoon was found.
Mark Jensen also told a co-worker that he had looked into poisoning his wife, Jambois said.
The trial was moved from Kenosha County to Walworth County, about 45 miles southwest of Milwaukee, because of pretrial publicity. A tornado warning prompted the courthouse, including those involved in the Jensen trial, to evacuate for about an hour to the basement.
A jury of nine men and 10 women, including seven alternates are hearing the case.
Jensen faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)