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.”