Photo: Jennifer Lee Nibbe is charged with 1st Degree Murder -- Premeditated and 2nd Degree Murder -- with Intent-Not Premeditated
Blue Earth County District Court Judge Bradley Walker late Tuesday issued an order denying a motion by Jennifer Lee Nibbe's attorney to dismiss the case for lack of probable cause, for violation of the confrontation clause and for fundamental fairness.
Walker also in part denied and in part granted the defense motion to suppress several different statements made by Nibbe to investigators as being in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights.
In summary of the 61 page ruling, Walker writes "Because some of the Defendant's statements were obtained in violation of her right to be free of self-incrimination, those statements will be suppressed and may not be used at trial."
Walker also wrote there were other statements that were not obtained in violation of her right to be free from self-incrimination. Combined with other evidence, Walker concluded there was probable cause and denied the motion to dismiss.
He also ruled the confrontation clause was also not violated and fundamental fairness did not require the charges to be dismissed.
Jennifer Lee Nibbe, now 34, called 9-1-1 around 5:57 a.m. o the morning of August 31, 2010. She told a Blue Earth County Dispatcher that her husband James Nibbe had been shot at their rural Lake Crystal residence.
James Nibbe (right) was allegedly shot and killed by his wife Jennifer Nibbe the morning of August 31, 2010 in the couple's home in rural Lake Crystal.
"It looks like the back of his head is gone," Nibbe told the dispatcher.
Nibbe also had claimed to have been attacked and cut by the intruder. She told investigators that she was about to take a shower when she heard a loud noise, opened the door and saw a man standing over her husband with their shotgun.
Sheriff investigators indicated they found no sign of a struggle and on the rainy evening, no signs of muddy footprints inside the house.
In questions were several non-custodial interviews and one in custody interview where Nibbe is alleged to have confessed.
The judge reviewed several contacts and interviews she had with law enforcement. Those included the morning of the shooting in front of the house the morning of the shooting, when they took her to a Mankato hospital for treatment of her cuts, and later conversations after the hospital visit at the Justice Center. A detective then offered Nibbe a ride to a home in rural Lake Crystal. No Miranda warnings were read in any of the contacts to Nibbe.
It was during the August 31, 2010 conversation at the justice center that investigators first tipped their hands that they didn't believe Nibbe's story.
After arriving from the hospital, investigators talked with her for about 90 minutes before allowing Nibbe the chance to use the bathroom. Investigators went to get some food.
When investigators returned and the interview resumed, the tone changed.
Judge Johnson noted "the interview shifted from gathering information from the Defendant to the officers explaining to the Defendant why they didn't believe her story.
"I'm concerned there's more going on here than what you're saying," said BCA Agent Mike Anderson to Nibbe.
Nibbe responded "Wow, can I have a lawyer?"
Agent Anderson replied "You're not under arrest, you can leave if you wish to talk to someone; we told you that from the beginning."
A short time later, Nibbe reiterates her desire to speak with a lawyer.
"So if you think I had anything to do with this then I need to get a lawyer, okay," said Nibbe.
Agent Anderson responds: "Again you're not under arrest and if you don't want to talk with us anymore, that's your choice."
The interview ended about two hours after it started.
There was also a September 1, 2010 conversation with Nibbe at the home of a friend she was staying with. No Miranda warning was read. She answered questions about how the attacker put a rope around her neck and the struggle in the living room. She was also questioned about her job, her marriage and a texting and flirting relationship with a former boyfriend.
Walker also reviewed her arrest on September 10, 2010 in the parking lot of her employer. She was read her Miranda and Nibbe told the arresting BCA agent she was not willing to speak without her lawyer present.
However on September 11, 2010, investigators received a call from jail staff indicating the Nibbe wanted to speak with them. During the videotaped interview, Nibbe was once again read Miranda, said she understood her rights but still wanted to speak with them.
In that interview, Nibbe would go on to describe in detail how she killed James Nibbe. She recounted how she took the gun, rested it on his shoulder, whispered to herself that he was the devil, and then she pulled the trigger.
She would also admit to cutting herself to make it look like she had been attacked.
In his ruling, pertaining to the statements made on August 31, 2010, Judge Johnson concluded Nibbe was not in custody "for the purposes of Miranda until investigators returned from a break."
Johnson writes that "when the interview resumed around 12:20 p.m., the investigators made clear to the Defendant that they didn't believe her story and that she was under suspicion for killing her husband."
Investigators further made it clear that Nibbe was the prime suspect.
Johnson writes that due to an "objective change in circumstances" the interview "transformed from a non-custodial to a custodial one."
Johnson concluded that even though Nibbe had been told she was free to leave, her freedom was restrained in the sense that she was not positioned near the door of the interview room and couldn't leave without a law enforcement escort at the Justice Center.
"Given all the circumstances, the Defendant (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," writes Judge Johnson.
Johnson concludes that there "is little doubt" the following the break the questions became "interrogatory in nature."
While Johnson has suppressed Nibbe's statement to investigations essentially after the break on August 31, 2010 to it's conclusion about 30 minutes later, all other statements, including a damaging confession made on September 11, 2010 remain in play.
The judge dismissed defense arguments that Nibbe's will was overcome by pressure from investigators that her son would be implicated in the murder if she did not confess.
"It is obvious to this Court the Defendant (Nibbe) was feeling very remorseful about the incident," wrote Judge Johnson.
Johnson concluded that Nibbe was "clearly intelligent enough to understand the nature of the interrogation and her right to an attorney" and was not "exhausted and drained" as she argues in her brief.
Nibbe will be in court next on March 7, 2012 for a pretrial hearing at 1:30 a.m.
Her five-day trial is set to begin on April 16, 2012 in Blue Earth County District Court in Mankato.