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Retrial Of Wisconsin Man Accused Of Poisoning Wife With Antifreeze In 1998 Begins

Mark D. Jensen was convicted in 2008 of killing his wife Julie Jensen and sentenced to life in prison without parole, but won an appeal. His retrial began in Kenosha County Circuit Court this week.

By Gina Salamone
Husbands Who Killed Their Wives

The retrial for a Wisconsin man accused of poisoning his wife with antifreeze and then suffocating her in 1998 began Wednesday with opening statements from lawyers, and a witness who said the suspect acted as if he was "at a cocktail party" during his wife's wake.

Mark D. Jensen, 63, was convicted in 2008 of first-degree intentional homicide of his wife Julie Jensen and sentenced to life in prison without parole, but won a new trial on appeal, according to Kenosha News.

The Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that Jensen should get a new trial in which a letter written by the victim that was used as evidence in the first trial would be excluded and, in 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state's appeal. That decision necessitated the current retrial, which is expected to last for about five weeks, Kenosha News reports.

Jensen, who was then 39, is accused of killing Julie, 40, inside their home in Carol Beach on Dec. 3, 1998. 

Mark Jensen talks with his attorneys

Prosecutors say he poisoned his wife with antifreeze, then suffocated her while she was in bed dying of poisoning both so that he could be with another lover and because he was mad at her for having a previous affair. They also claim he conducted internet searches on how to make his wife's death look like she'd taken her own life. 

Jensen continues to maintain his innocence and his lawyers says that Julie was depressed, framed her husband for her death and then died by suicide.

Among the key evidence in Jensen's 2008 conviction was a letter that Julie wrote and gave to a neighbor before her death. The letter stated, among other things, that, “if anything happens to me,” her husband “would be my first suspect,” according to Kenosha News. The letter won't be allowed to be presented as evidence in the retrial. 

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The original prosecutor in the case, Robert Jambois, has returned as a special prosecutor in the new trial.

Deputy District Attorney Carli McNeil presented the prosecution's opening statement Wednesday, showing a photo of Julie with her two young sons on TV monitors and saying she didn't take her own life because her family meant "everything to her," Kenosha News reports.

"In this case the evidence you're going to hear is that the defendant murdered his wife with ethylene glycol, that this was not Julie Jensen ingesting that substance to commit suicide," McNeill said. Ethylene glycol is the organic compound used to make antifreeze.

"You're going to hear that evidence about the ethylene glycol in Julie Jensen's blood and in her stomach, and other evidence of that poisoning in her system," McNeill added. "You may even see some photos from the autopsy showing evidence from the inside of her body."

The attorney said that the toxic liquid causes a slow, painful death and destroys the kidneys. McNeil also said that Julie "immediately regretted" an affair she had with a co-worker while wed to Jensen, but claimed that her husband "never forgave" her for it.

McNeil added that the affair led to Jensen launching a "campaign of covert harassment" against his wife, which included fake phone calls, disturbing emails and the placement of pornographic images of men on their property.

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The lawyer said that Julie had remained in the marriage "for the sake of the boys." 

Mackenzie Renner, who is among the defense attorneys representing Jensen, also delivered opening statements Wednesday.

The lawyer said his client was a "distraught mess of a man" after finding Julie dead, and referred to Julie as an "unreliable narrator," claiming she told inconsistent stories to acquaintances about her husband before she died.

"Julie Jensen took her own life. The evidence will show as much," Renner said. "Mr. Jensen is not a murderer."

Ruth Vorwald, who lived near the family, was the first witness questioned after opening statements Wednesday, according to Kenosha News.

Vorwald told the court that she didn't believe that Julie was suicidal, and said that on the day her friend died, she wondered, "How is this possible?"

The friend also said that Jensen showed "no emotion" when she asked him what happened to Julie.

Vorwald added that the widower acted as if he was "at a cocktail party" at his wife's wake, saying that he was laughing and talking with visitors at the service.

"I was watching him to see how he was behaving," she said. 

Jensen remains in custody on a $1.2 million bond, according to Kenosha News.