Should someone accused of killing their spouse still have control of the victim's belongings? One family in Nicollet County says the status quo that allows those situations is adding insult to injury.
Jennifer Nibbe killed her husband, James, and later blamed it on an intruder before confessing to the crime when she was arrested a week later. Now, James Nibbe's family is hoping some good can come out of that senseless killing.
Losing her little brother in a cold-blooded murder was bad enough for Leslie Johnson, but having to fight to reclaim some of his prized possessions hurt almost as much as losing him in the first place.
"This was Jim's favorite hat," she said.
Jennifer Nibbe admitted to shooting her husband in the head with a shotgun while he slept in their home in 2010 -- but even though she pled guilty, she retained control of Jim Nibbe's property because she is technically next of kin.
"It's frustrating. It's painful," said Johnson. "It adds to the agony you are already suffering through."
Jennifer Nibbe's father filed for power of attorney over the couples' estate and refused to give anything back to James Nibbe's family.
"Not only was their loved one murdered, but the things they held precious all of a sudden were disappearing right before their very eyes," Rep. Tony Cornish told FOX 9 News.
Cornish, who was a friend of James Nibbe, is now sponsoring a bill that would change the state's slayer statute, which stops someone from benefiting from inheritance by killing their spouse. The measure would give a judge the ability to place the couples' possessions in storage while the criminal case is decided.
"From when the person is charged to the disposition of the case, we don't want anything to walk away," Cornish said. "That's what this bill does."
After two years and four court orders, Jim Nibbe's family eventually got back most of his belongings, but they don't want another family to go through what they did.
"It also gives us some validation that what we went through was wrong -- so wrong that the law is being changed," Johnson told FOX 9 News.
So far, the bill -- called Jim's Law -- has passed several committees in both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature and is now waiting for a full vote in both chambers. If it passes, it would go to Gov. Mark Dayton to be signed into law.
WJBK-TV | Fox 2
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