Murder Details Revealed In Court

By: LeAnne Morman, Jodi Baker, Brian Mastre Email
By: LeAnne Morman, Jodi Baker, Brian Mastre Email

When two people charged with murder appeared in court Thursday, the public learned new details about how and where Karen Jenkins was murdered.

Police arrested 27-year-old Monique Lee and 19-year-old Gary Lee early Wednesday morning.

Gary and Monique Lee

The Lees are brother and sister. Police say they killed Karen Jenkins last October.

In court Thursday, the prosecutor said Gary Lee posed as a prospective tenant who wanted to rent an apartment from Karen Jenkins.

Monique Lee was already renting an upstairs apartment from Jenkins but was in the process of being evicted. A unit next to hers was where the plot was carried out.

County Attorney Don Kleine said, "The evidence shows that Mr. Lee was responsible in luring Ms. Jenkins to that apartment upstairs where he assisted his sister in causing the death of Ms. Jenkins by strangulation."

Forensic evidence, prosecutors said, backed up what Gary Lee told police, that his sister hit Jenkins over the head, then strangled her with a cord. All the while, Kleine said, her brother helped by pinning Jenkins down by the legs.

"He wouldn't come up with that idea his self. He wouldn't think of nothing like that," said James Byrd, Gary Lee's half-brother.

Byrd said he had only recently been getting to know Gary better, since Gary spent his childhood in various foster homes. He said the 19-year-old is church-going and mild mannered.

"I don't think he had it in him. I really don't," said Byrd. "He's just too timid for that. He really didn't speak up too much. He's more the person to stay in the background."

Both siblings are charged with first degree murder and use of a deadly weapon. Judge Lynn White denied bond for both of them.

Upon hearing the details of his aunt's murder in court, Cris Jenkins said, "It's heartbreaking. You never want to hear a loved one go through those kind of tragedies. But you have to hear those things if you want some kind of closure."

On Wednesday, just hours after the two siblings were booked for homicide, the Omaha Crime Lab along with at least one detective were in the upstairs apartment at 40th and Ames Avenue looking for evidence.

Murder suspect Monique Lee used to live there until she quit paying rent. The apartment is in a building adjacent to the business owned by Karen Jenkins -- Hank's Place. Jenkins was having Lee evicted right around the same time that Jenkins disappeared.

"Are you Monique?" recalls Ronald Ross who served the eviction papers to Lee in October. "She said yes and who are you? I said I'm a constable and explained I'm giving you this paperwork regarding the landlord-tenant agreement."

Ross, a long-time friend of Jenkins, says Lee was upset but adds -- that's not uncommon when you're getting evicted.

Monique Lee has a history of not paying the rent. Channel 6 News uncovered in Douglas County court documents -- that since 2003 -- Lee faced civil eviction lawsuits on nine separate occasions.

Karen Jenkins went missing October 17. Her body was found about a week later across the street in an abandoned house.

Monique Lee was kicked out from the apartment a short time later. In fact -- eviction proceedings had begun at the place Lee was living when she was arrested Wednesday -- 34th and Sahler.

"She's a chronic and knows how to play the system," says Ross. "A lot of times they'll put a hole in the wall or break stuff or call the landlord a slumlord -- do those types of things...that's the most retaliation I've seen."

Many are remembering the impact Karen Jenkins made on the world -- from her friendship to her role as educator.

Audrey Edmonds considered Jenkins a mentor. "I don't think I had the opportunity to express how much of an impact her visits on campus meant to me and I think that is probably one of my biggest regrets."

"The thing I miss most about Karen is that she lit up a room. I'm glad that a lot of people now know who she is," says Ross.

Jenkins, who had a doctorate in conflict resolution, was a professor at Metro Community College and a local businesswoman.

Ross says she gave Lee plenty of chances to pay the rent and owed at least $500.

Said Cris Jenkins, "This had to be that she helped her to where maybe it was too much for her, I don’t know. But my aunt would never just throw anybody out on the street."

He added, "She really tried to help Monique out. We're just in awe and amazement over how somebody who was lent a hand by such a beautiful person could just be so heinous and so evil."

Police continue to conduct interviews, and investigators are still running forensic tests in this case. We may not learn the full story, said Kleine, until the case goes to trial.

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WOWT NBC Omaha 3501 Farnam Street Omaha, NE 68131 (402) 346-6666
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 112596159 -
Gray Television, Inc.