“The world we live in is vastly different from the world we think we live in.”
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb
It was the 12th of May 1995. A Friday. Thirty one year old Nannette Krenzel had finished work for the weekend. She worked as a secretary in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Nannette had two daughters, an eight year old and a ten year old, and they lived with their father. Nannette saw them every weekend.
Nannette lived with her boyfriend, Jacob Stutz, in an apartment complex at Belle Plaine. They had lived there for three years. That night, the 12th of May, Nannette went to the sports bar Fuller’s Tavern on Chicago’s North Side. Jacob was there watching a basketball game with his stepfather, his brother Joseph, and his brother's girlfriend. It was around 9.30pm when Nannette got there. She was wearing a black windbreaker, black jeans, and sneakers and two rings and a bracelet.
Nannette and Jacob fought at the bar. They continued their argument outside the bar and Jacob told Nannette that their relationship was over for good. He went back into the bar to ask his brother to move his van as it was blocking his car and Jacob wanted to go home. When Jacob was leaving the parking lot, he saw Nannette walking east in an alley by the pub. She did not return to their apartment that evening.
When there was still no sign of Nannette the next day, Jacob called her friends and family to see if she was staying with one of them. Nobody knew where she was. On the 15th of May, Jacob reported her missing to the police.
The next day, the 16th of May, the police called Jacob with some news. A woman's body had been found on the 13th of May and they wanted Jacob to take a look at the body to see if it was Nannette. The body was found in Wisconsin, a person driving down the road in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin noticed a nude female body lying just off the road. Her body was left a few feet from a Wisconsin highway, just across the Wisconsin/Illinois border.
Jacob went to the police station in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Police showed him a photograph of the body. It was Nannette.
Nannette had been viciously beaten and stabbed to death. There were multiple wounds all over her body and her throat had been cut with such force that she had almost been decapitated.
Police believed there was a possibility that Jacob was involved. They did not like how he acted when he saw Nannette's body and they found out about the argument they had just before Nannette went missing. They asked him to take a polygraph test. He failed that polygraph test.
Police looked into the possibility that Jacob's brother Joseph may also have been involved. He did not like Nannette. He did not want his brother to date her. It was also reported that Joseph had a prior domestic charge. But police could not establish what the motive was for them to carry out such a vicious and brutal assault on Nannette. There was also no evidence that linked them to the crime.
Despite that, police put the two men under surveillance.
On the 27th of December 1995, a woman called Sharon Kilburn walked into the police station in Chicago and told police that her daughter called her and told her that she and her husband had fled to Arkansas because her husband killed a woman in Chicago in a fit of rage. Her daughter was Donna Lee and her husband was twenty five year old Michael Lee.
Police went to the apartment where they had lived before moving to Arkansas. When they turned the carpet over, they found what appeared to be blood stains on it. They went to Arkansas to talk to Donna and Michael. And Michael, despite initially requesting an Attorney, told them that he was ready to talk. Michael said that he was out the night of the 12th of May with his wife Donna. They were drinking at a bar when they met Nannette. After a few drinks, they bought some drink to bring back to their apartment and Nannette went to their apartment with them.
Back at their apartment, according to Michael, Nannette was hitting on him. Donna was upset and decided to go to bed. Michael told police that he tried to kiss and touch Nannette when Donna was in bed but Nannette was not interested. Her rejection caused him to snap. Donna went into the living room when she heard noises and saw Michael standing over Nannette with a baseball bat.
Michael told the police that he stabbed Nannette over forty times with a folding knife and cut her throat. Donna and Michael then rolled her body in a carpet, put her in the back of their car and drove to Pleasant Prairie where they dumped her body.
Michael was charged with first degree murder.
It was the Prosecution's case that Michael was the only person responsible for Nannette's murder.
Officer Heckel gave evidence that on the 13th of May 1995, he was asked at 6.40 am to investigate reports that a body had been found near the highway. Officer Heckle told the Court that he saw the body of a white female laying on her back in the grass. The body was around 15 feet from the roadway. He observed that the woman had sustained several injuries and cuts but it appeared that she was not breathing.
The Medical Examiner, Doctor Mark Witeck, gave evidence. Dr Witeck performed the Autopsy on Nannette's body. Both sides of her face had a number of contusions and bruises and there was a stab wound to her right eye.The stab wound caused a hemorrhage in the surrounding tissue and a fracture of the orbital plate.
There was a deep wound on her neck which was caused by multiple wounds that had overlapped. Nannette's airway and jugular vein were severed.
Dr Witeck gave evidence that a person could only survive that type of injury for five or six minutes.
The Court heard that Nannette had been stabbed forty times and there were stab wounds to her left lung and liver.
Donna testified on behalf of the Prosecution. She told the Court about the period in the run up to that night, the night of the 12th of May. She told the Court about an argument she had with Michael that led to Michael moving out. During the argument, she began swinging a baseball bat at Michael and he took control of it and hit her over the head with it which caused her ear to bleed.
Her father , who lived in the same house heard the argument and went to the basement to find out what all the shouting was about. When he saw his daughter bleeding, he ran towards Michael and they both fell to the floor. Her father cracked a rib and punctured his lung. Michael left the house and moved in with Donna's brother. On the 12th of May, Michael called Donna and asked her to meet him that evening. She agreed.
At 10.30pm that night, they went to a bar. She told the Court it was mostly a "lesbian bar” and that she and Michael joked about “picking up” another woman. Donna testified that they saw Nannette after that had a few drinks at the bar. Nannette entered the bar and sat beside Michael. Donna said that Nannette seemed inebriated.
Donna said that when they were about to leave, they noticed that Nannette had insulted another person in the bar. Fearing for her safety, they offered her a lift home. They left together but instead of dropping Nannette home, the three of them went to another bar. They stayed for about twenty minutes and when they left that bar, Nannette told them that she wanted to go to the sports bar that she was in earlier with Jacob. But Donna and Michael did not want to go to another bar so they bought beer and went back to their apartment.
Donna gave evidence that she had to ask Nannette to keep the noise down as soon as they got back to the apartment as she was very loud. Donna testified that she went into the back bedroom to lie down. But a short time later, she heard a loud noise so she walked into the front bedroom to see what had caused the noise. Nannette had no clothes on and was laying face up on a mattress on the floor.
Donna saw Michael. He was positioned over Nannette. Donna saw bruises on her face and blood on her neck. She told the Court she saw Michael hit her with a bat. Although in an earlier interview, she said she did not know what he hit her with.
Donna testified that Michael then cut Nannette's neck with a knife and when he pulled it out of her neck, she heard a “gurgling noise”. She claimed that they both put a pillow over Nannette's face as she was struggling. She stopped moving. Donna testified that they cut and stabbed her multiple times after she was dead. She confirmed that she also used the knife to cut Nannette.
When they had mutilated Nannette's body, they rolled her body in a carpet, placed it in the back of Michael's car and drove to Wisconsin and dumped Nannette's body.
She told the Court that they moved to Arkansas around Memorial Day 1995.
It was the Defense's case that Michael did not kill Nannette. Michael said that he was present in his apartment when Nannette was stabbed to death and he helped remove the body and then dump it just over the border, in Wisconsin. But it was the Defense's case that the actual murder was carried out by Donna. She killed her because she was jealous of her and she had acted alone.
Donna denied, when the Defense questioned her, that she was jealous. She said that she did cut her but was not enraged when she did it.
When Donna was asked why Nannette died, she said:
“It was her destiny.”
The Defense called Robert Burnetter, Donna's ex boyfriend, to testify. Robert said he dated Donna for about three years and they lived together for two of those three years. He told the Court that in 1998, when he mentioned that a coworker got a new hairstyle, Donna became enraged and then violent due to jealousy. Robert called Donna's mother for help and Donna threatened him with a knife. She was jumping in the air and stabbed herself in the chest and needed treatment for those injuries. The Defense claimed that this showed that Donna had a jealous and a violent side.
The Jury deliberated for a few days. Michael was found guilty of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to serve an extended term of 70 years due to the exceptionally brutal and heinous nature of the murder.
Donna was never charged with any crime related to Nannette's death. She testified she had not been offered any leniency in exchange for her testimony.
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