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Monique C. LEE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The victim, a landlord, had eviction papers served on Monique Lee two days earlier
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 17, 2010
Date of arrest: December 30, 2010
Date of birth: 1983
Victim profile: Karen Jenkins, 48 (her landlord)
Method of murder: Strangulation with the cord of a vacuum cleaner
Location: Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on November 13, 2012. Died in prison on January 18, 2013

photo gallery


Landlord's killer dies in prison

By Todd Cooper -

January 19, 2013

The strange, sordid and, at times, miserable life of Monique Lee has ended.

Lee — the 29-year-old serving a life sentence for strangling her landlord, Omaha businesswoman Karen Jenkins — died at the Nebraska women’s prison in York. The cause of death was not known but Lee reportedly had been housed in a medical unit for an illness in recent days.

Corrections officials had not released reports of her death; a corrections web site listed her date of death as Friday.

Lee’s death — just two months after she was sent York to serve her life sentence — brings an end to what her attorney called one of the more “strange, odd, unusual” cases he has handled.

Lee had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the October 2010 death of Jenkins, a well-traveled businesswoman and college instructor who had just earned her doctorate degree.

Lee was bipolar and had suffered from schizophrenia since childhood.

Her brother and sister testified that she had molested her brother when they both were children. Also as a child, she tried to poison her mother by soaking her food in WD-40.

She told others that she killed Jenkins, 48, because a man named “Black” threatened to take away her children if she didn’t.

Prosecutors believed her real motive was rooted in the fact that Jenkins had served her with eviction papers in the days before.

The slaying further exhibited Lee’s bizarre behavior. Lee and her brother, Gary Lee, lured Jenkins to one of Jenkins’ vacant apartments on the pretense that Gary Lee wanted to rent the apartment.

The brother and sister then strangled Jenkins. Monique used Super Glue to seal her nostrils and mouth shut.

They hid Jenkins’ body — apparently moving from place to place — before it was discovered more than week later under an abandoned house across the street from Lee’s apartment at 40th and Ames Avenue.

A jury rejected Lee’s insanity defense. Under Nebraska law, the defense must prove that a defendant suffers from mental illness that makes her incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.

Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley said there was no doubt that Lee was mentally ill.

“She had longstanding mental health issues,” he said. “Her upbringing was extremely difficult.

“There’s always some unanswered questions in any case. But with Monique, there were some gaping ones as to what actually occurred and why.”


Life sentence in slaying of landlord

By Todd Cooper -

November 14, 2012

Cynthia and Karen Jenkins were so close they were like twins.

Born just 11 months apart, the sisters shared everything. They argued and laughed, telephoned and teased each other every day, even when Karen Jenkins was traveling to faraway places.

They shared something else, too: If Karen had a tenant who had trouble making rent, Cynthia would hire her to clean houses.

But one of those tenants, Monique Lee, began stealing from Cynthia, stopped showing up for work and stopped paying rent. After giving her several reprieves, Karen served Lee with an eviction notice in October 2010.

Two weeks later, Lee and her brother, Gary, lured Karen Jenkins, 48, to a vacant apartment — and strangled her.

Now Lee, 29, will serve a life sentence — after Douglas County District Judge James Gleason imposed the term Tuesday.

Cynthia Jenkins knows a little something about life sentences.

The Omaha woman said she's lost without her sister.

“Monique's pretty much killed me, too,” Cynthia Jenkins told the judge Tuesday. “I can't take care of my family the way I used to. I can't forgive her. I can't find any hope. I can't find any answers.

“What did (Monique) have to gain for what she did? It's a mystery.”

Lee's attorney, Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley, said the mystery is rooted in mental illness. Riley had detailed Lee's history of mental illness from childhood — and had argued that Lee was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine acknowledged that Lee had mental illness but argued that she premeditated Jenkins' killing once she was served with the eviction papers. A jury convicted Lee, rejecting her insanity defense. Gary Lee was convicted of second-degree murder.

A week after her October 2010 disappearance, Jenkins' body was found under an abandoned house across the street from the bar Jenkins was renovating at 40th Street and Ames Avenue.

Now, whenever Jenkins' family gathers — be it at home or at the bar, now named Doc's Place — talk inevitably turns to the senselessness of Karen's death.

“That's the most frustrating part,” Cynthia Jenkins said. “Every time we get together, we try to make sense of it.”

It won't ever make sense, brother Kenneth Jenkins said.

Karen Jenkins, a businesswoman and former college instructor, had traveled the world and received a doctorate in conflict resolution. She was ornery and playful and full of energy, her family said.

“Karen had a way to give joy, to give a piece of herself to every friend she had,” Cynthia Jenkins said.

Ken Jenkins said the family is trying to focus on the quality of Karen's life, not the cruelty of her death.

“You can't hate,” he said. “If you hate, you can't pick the pieces up, can't move on. If you hate, you become them.”


‘I strangled her,’ Lee says in call from jail

By Todd Cooper - Omaha.cpm

May 4, 2012

So much for the whodunit.

In the course of her first-degree murder trial this week, Monique Lee’s defense has been questioning whether prosecutors could prove that Lee killed her landlord, Karen Jenkins, a college instructor and businesswoman.

However, one person didn’t question who did the killing: Lee herself.

In a December 2010 phone call from jail — played by prosecutors Thursday afternoon — Lee told her sister that she killed Jenkins.

“I admit, I did it,” she said at one point.

At another, she blubbered, through her tears, how she did it.

Pressing Lee about why she was charged with first-degree murder, sister DeShawndra Boatman asked Lee whether she shot or stabbed Jenkins, 48.

Lee didn’t respond.

“C’mon, Monique, just tell me,” Boatman said. “I won’t tell nobody. I won’t tell mom. ... Did you drug her?”

“I didn’t drug her,” Lee said, sniffling. “I choked ... I strangled her. I strangled her, Shawndra.”

Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley has left little unturned as he has questioned whether someone else — namely Lee’s brother, Gary Lee — could have killed Jenkins.

But that part of the defense was undermined Thursday as his own client’s words reverberated through the courtroom.

In addition to the jailhouse phone calls, prosecutors say, Lee has made admissions to both of the psychiatrists who have evaluated her.

And her brother Gary Lee is expected to testify Friday that he helped Monique Lee after she became upset that she was being evicted.

All of those things may mean the defense soon will turn to the second prong of their strategy: their argument that Lee was insane at the time of the killing.

The three phone calls — made two months after Jenkins was found dead — show a desperate woman. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine and Chief Deputy Brenda Beadle said it’s a woman covering her tracks — and trying to deflect blame for strangling Lee with a vacuum cleaner cord.

Riley, on the other hand, likely will point to some elements of the phone calls as signs that Lee wasn’t all there.

Throughout the phone calls, Lee seems consumed with her children — and with the consequences she might suffer.

In the second phone call that day, Lee adamantly denies acting alone — or out of anger for getting initial eviction papers.

“I admit, I did it,” she says. “It wasn’t based off of what everybody thinks it is. My kids was being threatened.”

By who? Boatman asked.

Lee refers to a mysterious man at a nearby body shop — and to a yellow truck parked in the neighborhood.

“All I know is his name is Black,” Lee said. “I would get phone calls, messages telling me what clothes I was wearing ... like they was watching me. I was being threatened. My brother was being threatened.”

Lee tells her sister that Jenkins’ body was moved by the unnamed man and his friends. Gary Lee is expected to testify he helped his sister hide the body.

“He kept threatening me,” she said. “He started telling me, ‘Do it or die. So I did it.’”

Authorities noted that Lee provides more details with each phone call. In the first phone call, Lee says she strangled Jenkins. In the second call, her sister asked what role their brother, Gary Lee, played.

“Gary watched,” Lee said. “He just stood there and watched. And he held her down.”

In the third phone call, she vents to Boatman about their little brother cooperating with police — and pinning the motive on the eviction.

“Gary throw all this (expletive) on me,” Lee says. “You mean to tell me, I been letting you live in my house and then you going to throw this (expletive) on me? ... This is my blood.”

Courtroom spectators were spellbound by the tapes. A few of Jenkins’ family members and friends dabbed away tears. One buried her head in her hands.

At one point, Lee’s mother left the courtroom in a huff. She shot a glare in her daughter’s direction before flinging open the courtroom doors.

Two jurors scribbled furiously as Lee made her admissions. Another closed his notebook and leaned back in his chair.

A female juror tried to stifle tears as Lee repeatedly asked about her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

Lee: “Have they asked about me? ... I need to hear them.”

Boatman: “They’re fine. I just told ’em ‘Mom has to take a vacation.’”

Finally, Boatman — who now has custody of the children — puts the daughter on.

“Hi, baby. Hey, baby,” Lee says, her singsong voice muffled by tears. “You take care of your little brother, OK? I love you.”

“I love you too,” her daughter says.

Later, Lee asks about the life sentence she could face for murder.

“They probably are going to try to give you life,” Boatman says. “They might give you 20 years.”

“Well, 20 is a lot better than life,” Lee says. “As long as it’s not forever. As long as I can get out and see the kids.”

She pauses.

“If I could change this, Shawndra, I swear to God I would. I can’t stand being away from my babies.”


Did woman in landlord slaying know right from wrong?

By Todd Cooper - Omaha.cpm

May 2, 2012

Monique Lee was mentally ill on Oct. 17, 2010 — the day her landlord, Karen Jenkins, was killed after Lee received eviction papers.

On that point, both sides agree.

But as Lee's first-degree murder trial began Tuesday in Douglas County District Court, prosecutors and defense attorneys disagreed on whether that long-standing mental illness made her unable to comprehend the consequences of her actions.

In short, prosecutor Brenda Beadle said, Lee was capable of understanding right and wrong.

Karen Jenkins often offered reduced rent to Lee and other tenants — sometimes even hiring them to work off their rent. However, Lee had used up those chances, Beadle said.

Upset that she was being evicted, Lee and her brother Gary Lee set out to set up Jenkins, the prosecutor said.

Pretending that Gary was a prospective tenant, the Lees lured Jenkins to a vacant apartment in the same building as the bar that was being renovated by Jenkins, an accomplished and well-traveled businesswoman who held a doctorate and once worked as a college instructor.

As Jenkins, 48, prepared to show the apartment to Gary Lee, prosecutors say, Monique Lee attacked her from behind.

Karen Jenkins called out: “Monique, get off of me.”

Lee then did the unthinkable, Beadle said: She strangled Jenkins with the cord of a vacuum cleaner while Lee's brother held her legs.

Monique and Gary Lee then wrapped Jenkins' body in a sheet and stuffed her in a closet, Beadle said. Hours later, under cover of darkness, they took the body across the street and disposed of it under the porch of a burned-out house near 40th Street and Ames Avenue, Beadle said.

Lee's attorney, Public Defender Tom Riley, told jurors his defense is two-pronged. First and foremost, Riley argued, prosecutors will have a hard time convincing jurors that Monique Lee killed Karen Jenkins.

Gary Lee, who has cooperated with prosecutors and will testify for them, is the only one who connects Monique to what happened in that apartment.

And, Riley said, Gary Lee has motive to lie. “He's not trying to protect his sister,” Riley said. “He's trying to lay it off on her — and she is not equipped to defend herself.”

Therein lies the second prong of Riley's defense. Even if jurors decide that prosecutors have proven their case, he said, it's clear that Lee was insane at the time of Jenkins' killing.

Prosecutors and the defense plan to call dueling doctors to debate that issue. Dr. Bruce Gutnik — an Omaha psychiatrist and frequent witness for the defense — will testify that Lee was insane and incapable of understanding her actions at the time.

Dr. Scott Moore, a Lincoln Regional Center psychiatrist, disagrees. He will testify that Lee could distinguish right from wrong.

After strangling Jenkins, prosecutors allege, Lee put Super Glue in the woman's nostrils — so much that her upper lip was glued to her nose. She and Gary Lee then stuffed tissue in her mouth.

The brother-sister duo then hid Jenkins' body.

The disappearance of Jenkins prompted a frantic search among her large and closeknit family. The family knew something was wrong when sister Cynthia — who spoke with Karen multiple times a day, every day — couldn't get hold of her.

“Karen was the baby of the family,” Beadle said. “She and Cynthia talked daily, several times a day.”

However, the last phone number dialed to Karen Jenkins' phone was Gary Lee's number — at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 17. At 10:31 a.m., Gary Lee then called or texted his sister's number, as he followed Karen Jenkins into the apartment, Beadle said.

After hiding the body — it wasn't found for six days — Monique Lee was deceptive with detectives investigating the disappearance, Beadle said.

Monique Lee initially told investigators she hadn't seen Jenkins for a while. On the Sunday in question, she said, she was at the Siena Francis House, doing community service work all day.

She later changed that story, telling detectives she was at home all day.

Ronald Ross, a Douglas County sheriff's constable, said he served Monique Lee with initial eviction papers Oct. 3. The papers indicated that Lee could contest her eviction, and a court date was set for Oct. 15.

“I didn't get the chance to get much out,” Ross said of his encounter with Lee. “She grabbed the papers out of my hand and just mumbled something, kind of upset.”


Police Arrest Brother-Sister in Jenkins Murder

By Jonathan Athens -

December 30, 2010

OMAHA (KPTM)--Police arrested a 19-year-old Omaha man and his 27-year-old sister and charged them both with first degree homicide in the killing of 48-year-old Karen Jenkins.

"This is an on-going investigation... police are still conducting interviews, we don't want to jeopardize the investigation," said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine.

Kleine was speaking to reporters earlier today when police announced they arrested Gary D. Lee and his sister Monique Lee.

Jenkins disappeared on Oct. 17, two days after she filed an eviction notice against Monique Lee, who was renting a house from Jenkins.

Police discovered Jenkins' body about five days later at that house.

Prosecutors are also charging Gary and Monique Lee with use of a weapon.

Gary and Monique Lee are in jail pending a bond hearing tomorrow afternoon



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