More than two years after his wife's body was found at the bottom of Borden Lake, a Garrison man has pleaded guilty to helping her commit suicide.
Gerald David Jones, 67, pleaded guilty Monday in Crow Wing County District Court to felony aiding suicide in connection with the 2006 death of his wife, 61-year-old Nancy Lou Hesner.
In lieu of 21 months in prison, Jones was sentenced by Crow Wing County Judge David Ten Eyck to house arrest and a decade of supervised probation.
Hesner was reported missing Dec. 18, 2006, by Jones' attorney, Twin Cities-based Robert Sicoli. On Dec. 23, 2006, divers with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department found Hesner's body anchored with a 25-pound weight to the bottom of Borden Lake, about 185 yards from the home of Jones and Hesner.
Jones, walking Monday with the aid of a cane, admitted in court that in September of 2006 Hesner, who had physical problems, committed suicide by jumping from a boat he was driving into Borden Lake with a weight tied around her body.
Sicoli said if the case had gone to trial, Jones' defense would have been that he only agreed to drive the boat to try to convince Hesner not to commit suicide. He said because of Jones' poor health - he suffers from perforated arteries in his legs - he was unable to save his wife after she jumped.
"Unfortunately, as you can tell from looking at Mr. Jones, he's not a spry individual, so once she decided to do what she was going to do, there wasn't really anything he could do at that point," Sicoli said following Jones' sentencing.
Jones was sentenced to 60 days home electronic monitoring and 10 years supervised probation with conditions that he participate in weekly grief counseling and comply with the probation department. He also was fined $132.
Jones' plea was agreed to by Sicoli and Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan based on recommendations in the presentence investigation.
"I think Mr. Ryan, in talking to him, saw it as a deal that was worth it because Mr. Jones is not somebody he has to worry about and we saw it as a reasonable resolution because there's always a risk of going to trial. If you go to trial you don't know what a jury is going to do," Sicoli said following Jones' sentencing.
"It was a good resolution because he's not doing any jail time. He's going to do electronic monitoring."
Ryan said the agreement was appropriate.
Hesner had previously attempted suicide in August of 2005, Sicoli noted in court. According to Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department records of that suicide attempt, she had left a note stating she had decided to end her life using the book "Final Exit" as a guide; that Jones had no prior knowledge of her decision; and that she had been in constant, unbearable suffering with depression and pain since a 1952 car accident. The note also forbid anyone from reviving her.
According to court documents, in the 2005 suicide attempt Hesner took a full dose of drugs, including the tranquilizer meprobamate, and intended to drown herself by tying herself to concrete blocks if necessary. Jones later found Hesner, called 911 and she was revived at a hospital. The same tranquilizer was found during Hesner's autopsy in 2007.
Sicoli said after more than two years in court, Jones was happy to have the criminal case against him resolved.
"He's not only living with the fact he doesn't have his wife anymore but then the case hanging over his head, too, which was a big worry for him," Sicoli said.
The death was investigated by the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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