Posted April 30, 2012
A year and a half after 48-year-old Karen Jenkins was murdered, her former tenant will stand trial.
The first-degree murder case against Monique Lee, 29, gets underway Monday, with jury selection.
Lee is accused of strangling Jenkins, her former landlord, with a vacuum cord in October of 2010. Her brother, Gary Lee, pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder for luring Jenkins to the attack, posing as a would-be renter looking at an apartment. Jenkins' body was discovered a week later at 40th and Ames Ave.
As part of Gary Lee's plea agreement, he is expected to testify against his sister.
The case had been delayed while Lee underwent mental evaluations. In October, her public defender, Tom Riley, said he was planning an insanity defense.
"I think that's a cop out for someone who's trying to get out of something," said Lindsey DeBerry, the victim's best friend of more than 30 years.
"I'd like to see her never be able to hurt another person like she did Karen," he said. "I'd like her to have time to think about what she's done and the many lives she's affected."
Jenkins was a professor at Metropolitan Community College, teaching courses in conflict resolution among others. "A fighter for people, underdogs if you will," said DeBerry. "She worked a lot for the women of the Congo, and she also championed a lot of different causes."
That's why the motive, he said, is still unclear to those who knew and loved Jenkins. "She touched a lot of lives, and that was her focus. And that's why this is such a tragedy. She was a very giving, caring person. That's why we can't make a lot of sense (of this)."
The trial is expected to last two weeks, with opening statements not likely until at least Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Monique's brother Gary Lee took a plea deal and admitted his role in the murder. He said he lured Jenkins to an apartment, where his sister strangled Jenkins with a vacuum cleaner cord.
Monique's attorney said the two positions, insanity and competency, are different in this way. "The insanity defense is determined by the person's mental state at the time of the offense," said Douglas County public defender Tom Riley. "Competency to stand trial addresses the individual's ability at the time court is going on."
Riley said Monique has a history of mental illness.
As part of his plea deal, Gary Lee will testify against his sister. He could face up to 50 years in prison when sentenced.