“Broken Trust”: When Landlord Karen Jenkins Was Strangled To Death Over An Apartment

Monique Lee and Gary Lee [Omaha Police Department]

OMAHA, NE — On October 17, 2010, Omaha resident Monique Lee, 27, used her 19-year-old brother Gary Lee to lure landlord Karen Jenkins, 48, into a vacant apartment. Once inside, Monique struck Jenkins from behind in a murderous rage.

At Monique’s behest, Gary held Jenkins down while his sister strangled the struggling woman with a vacuum cleaner cord. Then, to make sure Jenkins would die on the spot, the siblings sealed her mouth and nose shut with super glue. Horrifically, their plan worked.

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A highly respected and well-liked figure around the rough-and-tumble neighborhood where she bought a building, Karen Jenkins was a college professor who, earlier in 2010, had earned her doctorate degree.

Jenkins, who aimed to uplift the troubled area, is said to have made numerous credit and work-for-rent arrangements with a number of her tenants who were undergoing tough times. Single mom Monique Lee ranked high among them.

After months of unpaid rent and unfulfilled arrangements, though, Jenkins finally served Monique with an eviction notice on October 15. Two days later, Monique had her brother Gary pose as a prospective renter in order to get Jenkins alone and kill her.

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Gary later said he and Monique waited 12 hours to dump Jenkins’ body in a nearby abandoned building under cover of darkness. After a concerted effort to locate the suddenly vanished landlord, searchers discovered Jenkins’ hidden body five days later.

Following an investigation, police arrested Monique Lee and Gary Lee for the murder on December 29. In short order, Gary flipped and agreed to testify against his sister, and thereby set in motion what a defense attorney later said was one of the most “strange, odd, unusual” cases he had ever handled.

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Monique Lee pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Earlier in life, Monique had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and suffered from numerous mental-illness issues. In addition, Monique’s other siblings said she had sexually molested Gary as a child and once attempted to poison their mother by soaking her food in WD-40.

After confessing to killing Karen Jenkins, Monique said she did so at the behest of a man named “Black,” who threatened to take away her children if she refused. She later explained:

“I admit, I did it. It wasn’t based off of what everybody thinks it is. My kids was being threatened [by a man]. All I know is his name is Black. I would get phone calls, messages telling me what clothes I was wearing … like they was watching me. I was being threatened. My brother was being threatened. [Black] kept threatening me, started telling me, ‘Do it or die.’ So I did it.”

After pleading down to second-degree murder, Gary Lee agreed to testify for the prosecution that despite Monique’s mental-health issues, his sister knew what she was doing was wrong.

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When the case made it to court in 2012, Gary suddenly refused to answer on the stand, resulting in a mistrial.

During the second trial, Gary changed his story on the stand and claimed he killed Jenkins himself. His testimony was stricken from the record and he was ultimately sentenced to 65 to 100 years for his part in the murder.

The jury didn’t buy Monique’s insanity plea and found her guilty in August 2012. That November, a judge sentenced her to life without the possibility of parole. Just two months later, Monique was moved to a prison medical unit, where she died of an undisclosed illness on January 17, 2013.

For more on this case, watch “The Landlord” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Broken Trust on ID GO now!

Read more:
Omaha Police Officers Association
Omaha World-Herald

Main photos: Monique Lee and Gary Lee [Omaha Police Department]



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