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Lisa Michele DONLON





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Victim of domestic violence
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 7, 2010
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1973
Victim profile: Jason Donlon, 40 (her husband)
Method of murder: Shooting (.45-caliber handgun)
Location: Butte, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska, USA
Status: Found not guilty on all counts by a jury on April 3, 2013
photo gallery

Lisa Donlon, Acquitted in Husband's Death, Speaks Out

By Rebecca Palsha - Channel 2 News

April 03, 2013

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Lisa Donlon walked out of jail Tuesday evening as a free woman, for the first time after being held and tried in the October 2010 death of her husband -- but she says she wasn't sure what the jury's decision would be.

A Palmer jury acquitted Donlon Tuesday of charges including second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide after she shot Jason Donlon five times while he slept. Her defense attorney says the jury found she acted in self-defense and that Jason Donlon tortured, kidnapped and raped Lisa Donlon during a three-day period.

Donlon says she prayed for a verdict in her favor, then waited to see what it was.

“I left it in God’s hands,” Donlon said Wednesday afternoon in an interview with Channel 2.

Donlon says she doesn’t remember what she was thinking before she pulled the trigger. She says Jason had just raped her and threatened to kill the couple’s three children.

“(He said) he would start taking my children out as they came home from school,” Donlon said, “and that he would finish off with me.”

Donlon says she’ll spend Wednesday evening with her three boys, who are now 11, 13 and 15, eating pizza and watching movies. It will be the first time she’s seen them outside of jail in more than two years.

"We’re just going to hang out, watch some TV, eat some pizza and hug -- be a family,” Donlon said.

Donlon says the first thing she did after being released was go out to dinner and order some lasagna -- the meal she’s missed the most since she was arrested in the case.

Calls to district attorneys in the case weren't immediately returned Wednesday.


Wife is CLEARED of murdering her husband as he slept after telling how he raped and tortured her for days

  • Lisa Donlon was found not guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide on Tuesday

  • The mother of three shot her husband once in the head and three times in his back as he slept in 2010

  • Defense argued Jason Donlon had been raping and torturing her for days

April 3, 2013

A jury acquitted an Alaska woman who shot her husband six times as he slept, killing him, after she said the man held her against her will and tortured her for three days.

A Palmer jury on Tuesday found Lisa Donlon not guilty on all counts after several days of deliberations following a four-week trial, according to KTUU-TV.

Donlon, a mother of three, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

She shot her husband, Jason Donlon, once in the head and five times in the back with a .45-caliber handgun while he slept on Oct. 7, 2010 before calling 911 to report the shooting.

The defense argued Jason Donlon had been raping and torturing his wife for three days. They say he was keeping her against her will in a cabin or storage shed in Butte, about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage.

Prosecutors argued the killing was non-confrontational, and they said that while medical records showed evidence of scrapes and bruises there was nothing to indicate Lisa Donlon had been tortured.

A grand jury initially declined to indict Donlon but reconsidered after prosecutors presented new evidence.

Her lawyer argued that she was a victim of domestic violence and the shooting was justified.

‘Anyone I think would have done what Lisa Donlon did to protect herself and to protect her children under those circumstances,’ said defense attorney Zachary Renfro according to KTUU during closing arguments. ‘Lisa Donlon was kept in a 12 by 20 cabin against her will, unable to leave by the threat of death to her, death to her children.’

The Donlons married in South Carolina in 1995, and court papers show trouble in their marriage when they were living in Eagle River in 2006. That year she obtained a restraining order against her husband and doctors documented her injuries.

In a petition for the restraining order, she said he became enraged when she announced she wanted a divorce.

'He packed his things, told the kids `bye,'' she wrote. 'Twenty minutes later he came back with his two loaded guns. He was trying to force me to call the police because he wanted to be shot by police officers so it wouldn't look like a suicide.'

She wrote that her husband had pointed a gun to her chest before, had thrown her out of the house with no clothes on -- an event she said was witnessed by one of their sons. She also stated that her husband had choked her unconscious.

She said she didn't call police because she was scared.

'I have a feeling that he would use his guns easily, and I don't want to create any situation that would trigger that,' she wrote.

Two days after she obtained the restraining order, Jason Donlon, who was a computer technician for the Alaska Army National Guard, filed for divorce, seeking custody of the children.

The couple soon reconciled and were living in a small building behind the home of his mother and stepfather.

Defense Attorney Zachary Renfro said that while Donlon was in jail she had weekly visits from her three sons. He said the next step is to work on a plan to reunite her with her children.


Jury deliberates Donlon’s fate

By Andrew Wellner -

March 28, 2013

PALMER — Among the many things he told and showed the jury Thursday, one sentence on a slide in Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak’s PowerPoint presentation seemed to sum up his view of Lisa Donlon: She “chose a .45 instead of the police or a divorce lawyer.”

Donlon’s trial ended Thursday after occupying most of the month of March in Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen’s courtroom. She is accused murder for shooting her husband Jason Donlon while he lay in bed in their Butte-area cabin.

“Trials don’t have to be this long,” Kalytiak told the jury. “A trial can be in a matter of seconds because the evidence has shown here that a trial was conducted on Oct. 7, 2010.”

He said Lisa Donlon weighed the evidence, found her husband guilty and imposed the death penalty in “a matter of minutes, if not seconds.”

But she didn’t have to, Kalytiak argued. When she managed to lock her husband out of the family vehicle she could have driven to the police station. With the kids away at school on the days she said her husband tortured her, she could have called the police, had them pick the kids up so she knew they were safe. She could have gotten a divorce, or gone to live with friends out of state.

Instead, she shot Jason Donlon five times, including what Kalytiak called a “coup de grace” shot behind the ear. That sent a message, he said.

“I don’t want this person to ever recover from anything. I want this person gone. Period. Exclamation point,” Kalytiak said of the shooting.

But he wasn’t the only one making arguments Thursday. Zachary Renfro, one of Donlon’s attorneys, argued her side.

“Anyone, I think, would have done what Lisa Donlon did and should have done to protect herself and her children,” Renfro said. “Lisa Donlon was kept in a 12-by-12 cabin against her will by threat of death to her (and) to her children.”

He said the trial wasn’t about money — despite what Kalytiak implied, Lisa Donlon didn’t even know about her husband’s $400,000 insurance policy — nor was it about an affair she said she’d had with a co-worker.

And it wasn’t, Renfro said, a matter of Donlon arguing — as Kalytiak implied — that “the son-of-a-bitch deserved what he had coming.”

“Whether or not I believe that, I’m not allowed to argue that to a jury and you’re not allowed to consider it in your deliberations,” Renfro said.

No, what the case was about, he argued, was an imminent threat. The night before he was killed — after three days of torturing his wife over that affair — Renfro said Jason Donlon stayed up late.

“All night long he’s saying, ‘tomorrow’s the day. You’re going to pay. You have to pay for what you’ve done,’” Renfro said.

She believed he was going to kill her, but even so she held out hope, hatching a plan to keep their three kids home and maybe defuse the situation. She turned off the alarm clocks in the cabin. But then Jason Donlon woke up anyway, got their oldest off to middle school. And that’s when she knew.

“She knew he is going to do what he said he’s going to do,” Renfro said.

As of press time Thursday afternoon, the jury had received its instructions. And deliberations are expected to begin today.


Testimony: Friends knew of abuse

By Andrew Wellner -

March 16, 2013

PALMER — Jason Donlon’s best friend said that when he received a frantic voice message from his friend in October of 2010, he knew something was wrong.

“He said, ‘call me because I really need you,’ and I knew. I knew that something bad had happened,” Richard Sheetz told jurors Friday.

He tried to call back but couldn’t. He said, he assumed then that Donlon had hurt or killed his wife. But, actually, it was Donlon who had died at his wife’s hands just a couple days after that call.

Sheetz was testifying in the murder trial of Lisa Donlon. Both sides agree that on Oct. 7, 2010, Lisa Donlon shot her husband in the back as he slept in their Butte-area cabin. Her attorneys argue that her husband had threatened multiple times to kill her and that he had tortured her for days prior to the shooting. Prosecutors contend that she had better options available, that she could have left or called police and didn’t need to shoot a sleeping man in the back.

Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen ruled on Friday that she would allow defense attorneys to tell the jury it can consider self-defense as a possible justification for a not-guilty verdict. District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said he intends to appeal that ruling.

Sheetz said he had known Jason Donlon since in 1989 when they were both stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C.

As a young Marine, Sheetz said, his friend “would actively seek out conflict.”

It’s a behavior that didn’t taper off as his friend matured. They wound up living in different parts of the country, but kept in touch by phone and through occasional visits. In 2007, Jason Donlon stayed with Sheetz and his wife at their home in Colorado. In a conversation at the kitchen table they talked about his friend’s marriage.

“He told me that they were having problems and he told me that it had become physical,” Sheetz testified. “He told me, ‘I smacked her around a little bit.’”

Sheetz said he didn’t approve and he tried to help. He lined up a job for Jason Donlon where he worked, told his friend to move down there, take some time and cool off.

“He said that he wouldn’t do that,” Sheetz said.

Sheetz’s wife, Jennifer Sheetz, said that she had also tried to help, offering to fly Lisa Donlon and her three boys to Colorado.

It seemed apparent from her testimony that as years went by she could see the Donlons’ relationship deteriorating. At one point she and Lisa Donlon implemented a code phrase, “bunny ears,” to indicate when Lisa Donlon felt unable to talk freely on the phone because someone else was listening.

“I didn’t witness any physical violence take place, but I did hear some things over the phone,” Jennifer Sheetz testified.

Sometime in 2006, Jennifer Sheetz said, she started to get very concerned. Lisa Donlon told her that her husband had cut her hair, raped her and threw her outside without any clothes on.

“I felt that he just really didn’t see her as a person anymore, the way he was treating her,” she said. Later, she said, “Jason was a very generous person. He was a lot of fun. There were a lot of great things about him. But he had a horrible temper.”

Also Friday, Kalytiak got a chance to question Lisa Donlon directly.

“Every time one of these things happened you should have been or you were re-evaluating your marriage?” Kalytiak asked.

“No, not every time,” Lisa Donlon said, explaining there were times that her husband promised he’d do better, that things would change. “When you love somebody you believe them when they tell you that.”

Roman asked about the time Jason Donlon filed for a divorce. Lisa Donlon said that he’d done that as a ruse to get her to come back by scaring her into thinking that with his lawyer he’d be able to get full custody of the kids.

“He told me I had no chance of winning because I had no job, I had no lawyer and I had no place to live,” Lisa Donlon said.

“You chose domestic violence and rape and name calling over divorce and some financial struggling?” Kalytiak asked.

“He said that things would get better and we would get counseling,” Lisa Donlon replied.

Kalytiak asked her if the Donlons were a couple that enjoyed turbulence in their relationship, if she and Jason Donlon thrived on conflict. She said they were not. Later, he asked about a possible explanation for the torture she described in the days leading up to her shooting Jason Donlon — she said previously that her hands were bound and she was suspended from the ceiling as he whipped her, poked her with needles and slapped her.

“You would agree that what you described to the jury sounds like a bondage-type situation,” Kalytiak asked her.

“No. That’s sick,” Lisa Donlon replied.


Donlon details abuse for jury during murder trial

By Andrew Wellner -

March 14, 2013

PALMER — While her kids waited in the car, Lisa Donlon said her husband walked her into the woods.

Getting her that far had been a struggle. First she’d tried to lock him out of the family SUV. Then, when he pulled her out of the vehicle and she fell on the ground, she refused to stand up.

“He said, ‘if you don’t walk right now I’m going to do it right here,’” Lisa Donlon said Thursday from the witness stand. She said she believes her husband intended to kill her — right there, next to the SUV with their boys waiting inside. She said she gave up and went with him after her husband told her, “I’ll have to take them out, too, because they can’t go through their lives being witnesses.”

Donlon was on the witness stand testifying in her own trial for allegedly murdering her husband. Two days after the incident in the woods, she shot him in the back while he lay in their bed. Her attorneys argue she had no choice, that Jason Donlon wouldn’t let her leave and that he had been torturing her.

Prosecutors in the case argue that she was not a prisoner and that she had other options better than shooting a man who was very likely sleeping.

The argument that led to the incident in the woods off of the Jim Creek trails began after Jason Donlon found some text messages between his wife and one of her co-workers.

Donlon said she told her husband she and the co-worker had been flirting for three weeks and that they’d kissed only once. She said on the witness stand that was a lie — it’d been going on five weeks and they’d kissed five times. She said he believed there was way more too it and was demanding answers.

On the trail in the Butte, Donlon said her husband choked her until her knees were weak and her vision blurry. Then he gave her three options — shoot herself, overdose on the post-surgery pain medications she’d been taking and that he had in his pocket, or let him strangle her. She opted for the pills.

“He gave them to me and I was taking some and he snatched them back and said, ‘you’re not getting off that easy,’” Donlon testified in court Thursday.

So they went back to their house. Her husband tried — though often failed — to remain controlled when the kids were around. But the next day when the children went to school, she said he bound her hands, connected them to a pulley system and tied that to a hook in the roof. He sprayed her with rubbing alcohol and tried to light her on fire.

“I kept blowing the lighter out and that made him more mad,” she said.

So he hit her with a belt, punched her and slapped her. He told her if she screamed she might get someone killed as he would have to take out potential witnesses. At the end he had sex with her — “forced himself on me,” Donlon testified — and went to sleep like nothing had happened.

Donlon said their relationship had been abusive for years, starting in South Carolina where he worked as a police officer. He would hit her, slap her and sometimes choke her. Three times he choked her until she passed out, she testified.

A few years after moving to Alaska, he deployed with the military to Iraq. He came back and things got worse. She tried to leave him in 2006, but he found her at a women’s shelter in Anchorage, the location of which, she said, she’d been told was supposed to be a secret. That’s why she didn’t think she could leave when he was tying her to the ceiling of their one-room cabin.

“I had left before and he had found me,” she said. “I had went to a shelter where I was supposed to be protected and it was supposed to be a secret.”

So, having been told the torture would resume the next day she shot him after one of their sons had gone to school, but before the other two left.



Domestic-violence victim charged in spouse's death

Donlon shot husband 6 times while he was lying in bed

By Lisa Demer -

December 27, 2010

After initially deciding not to charge a Butte woman for killing her husband, a Palmer grand jury received new information and has now indicted the woman on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Lisa Donlon, now 38 and the mother of three boys, shot Jason Donlon, 40, once in the head and five times in the back with a .45-caliber handgun early Oct. 7 as he lay in their bed, prosecutors have said.

She then called 911 and admitted shooting her husband, prosecutors say.

The initial decision by the grand jury to not charge her was based in part on evidence that Lisa Donlon was a victim of domestic violence, prosecutors say. Doctors had documented injuries. And back in 2006, she had sought a restraining order to protect herself from her husband.

"Her claim was, and is, that the murder was justified," Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said Monday.

Donlon testified before the grand jury, which is unusual for the target of a criminal investigation. For suspects who believe what they did was justified, "the grand jury would provide a good place for them to make their feelings known or to give their side of the story," the district attorney said.

Usually police bring initial charges and prosecutors seek an indictment within a specified number of days.

"In this case, there was an ongoing investigation and a decision was made not to charge her right away but to present it to the grand jury in the format of an investigative grand jury case," Kalytiak said.

The same grand jury that heard the case in October revisited it in December when the district attorney's office presented additional information it had received, he said.

He said he could not disclose what that information was because the inner workings of a grand jury are secret.

Court papers show trouble in the Donlon marriage back in 2006, when the family was living in Eagle River.

The couple married July 4, 1995, in Greenville, S.C., a divorce filing said.

When Lisa Donlon filed paperwork for a civil restraining order on Nov. 6, 2006, she wrote that her husband had been violent toward her and that things had blown up when she announced to him the week before that she wanted a divorce.

"He packed his things, told the kids bye. Twenty minutes later he came back with his two loaded guns. He was trying to force me to call the police because he wanted to be shot by police officers so it wouldn't look like a suicide," Lisa Donlon wrote.

She was afraid for her life, and his, she wrote. She didn't know what he might do. She left the house with their children.

He had pointed a gun to her chest before, she wrote. He also had thrown her out of the house with no clothes on, an event witnessed by one of their sons. Another time, he choked her unconscious, she wrote.

She didn't report him to police because she was scared.

"I'm afraid now to face my husband before our divorce process is over. I have a feeling that he would use his guns easily and I don't want to create any situation that would trigger that," she wrote.

At the time, she wasn't working. Jason Donlon was a computer tech for the Alaska Army National Guard, she wrote.

She was granted a temporary restraining order.

Just two days later, on Nov. 8, 2006, it was Jason Donlon, not Lisa, who filed for divorce. He was seeking custody of their three young sons.

That Nov. 13, he twice called the children's school to find out if they were there, even though he was under court order not to do that. He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of violating the protective order. That criminal case later was dropped.

Within weeks, the Donlons were reconciling. On Dec. 28, 2006, Jason Donlon asked a judge to dismiss the divorce case.

This past summer, the family moved to the Valley. Bills were mounting for Lisa Donlon back in Anchorage, according to a small claims case filed against her in July.

She didn't respond to the case until Nov. 22.

"Due to my domestic violence issues, I apologize for the lateness," she wrote.

When Jason Donlon was killed, the family was living in a storage shed behind the home of his mother and stepfather, prosecutors have said.

Two of their sons were home at the time. Their children now are age 13 and under.

Lisa Donlon is being held on $100,000 bail at the Mat-Su pretrial facility.

A bail hearing is set for Wednesday.



Grand jury won't indict woman in Butte shooting

Evidence supported claim that she was victim of violence.

By K.T. McKee -

November 2, 2010

WASILLA -- A Palmer grand jury decided Thursday that a Butte woman who shot her husband to death last month should not be charged for the killing because of "significant evidence" of being abused by him over the years.

Lisa Michele Donlon, a 37-year-old mother of three boys, shot Jason Donlon, 40, once in the head and five times in the back with a . 45-caliber handgun as he lay in their bed on the morning of Oct. 7.

Two of their sons were home at the time of the 7 a.m. slaying. The family had been living in a storage shed behind the home of Jason Donlon's mother and stepfather, said Rachel Gernat, the case's lead assistant district attorney in Palmer.

"There was evidence of serious physical abuse and that she had sought assistance before," Gernat said, being cautious about what she revealed about the case because grand jury proceedings are usually kept secret.

"We were able to confirm all of her story. The shooting doesn't appear to have been premeditated. It was definitely a product of the situation."

Neither Lisa Donlon nor anyone else in the Donlon family could be reached for comment.

Donlon grew up in Savannah, Ga., and later attended high school and technical college in South Carolina, according to her profile on a social networking website.

She's lived in Alaska for at least nine years, according to public records.

The Donlons had been married for more than 12 years and their sons were all under the age of 13, Gernat said Tuesday.

Jason Donlon had served in Iraq with the Army and had returned to Alaska in 2006 -- the same year the former Eagle River resident was charged with violating a domestic violence protective order against his wife in an Anchorage court, Gernat said.

The family had moved to the Valley this past summer, and Donlon commuted to her two jobs in the Anchorage area. One of those jobs involved working with children at an Anchorage school, Gernat said.

Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said there was plenty of evidence of bruising and other injuries to Lisa Donlon from doctors' examinations. There was no evidence, however, that Jason Donlon physically abused the children, he said.

Who killed him was never a mystery, Kalytiak said.

"It was never an issue of whether she shot him because she admitted to it when she called 911," Kalytiak said Monday. "Therefore, the grand jury must have found the shooting to be justified. Basically, her position was that she didn't have any other choice in the matter than to do what she did."

Kalytiak said he's sure some in the community will judge Donlon harshly for what she did.

"People will probably feel she had plenty of opportunities to help herself and will feel that since her husband was laying on his stomach at the time of the shooting, it wasn't a true self-defense case," he said.

"On the other hand, people who know about domestic violence point out that there are certain psychological aspects that lead victims to get to the point where they feel pretty desperate and that their choices are very limited."



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