Grand jury won't indict woman in Butte shooting (Nov. 2)

K.t. McKee

WASILLA -- A Palmer grand jury decided Thursday that a Butte woman who shot her husband to death last month should not be charged for the killing because of "significant evidence" of being abused by him over the years.

Lisa Michele Donlon, a 37-year-old mother of three boys, shot Jason Donlon, 40, once in the head and five times in the back with a . 45-caliber handgun as he lay in their bed on the morning of Oct. 7.

Two of their sons were home at the time of the 7 a.m. slaying. The family had been living in a storage shed behind the home of Jason Donlon's mother and stepfather, said Rachel Gernat, the case's lead assistant district attorney in Palmer.

"There was evidence of serious physical abuse and that she had sought assistance before," Gernat said, being cautious about what she revealed about the case because grand jury proceedings are usually kept secret.

"We were able to confirm all of her story. The shooting doesn't appear to have been premeditated. It was definitely a product of the situation."

Neither Lisa Donlon nor anyone else in the Donlon family could be reached for comment.

Donlon grew up in Savannah, Ga., and later attended high school and technical college in South Carolina, according to her profile on a social networking website.

She's lived in Alaska for at least nine years, according to public records.

The Donlons had been married for more than 12 years and their sons were all under the age of 13, Gernat said Tuesday.

Jason Donlon had served in Iraq with the Army and had returned to Alaska in 2006 -- the same year the former Eagle River resident was charged with violating a domestic violence protective order against his wife in an Anchorage court, Gernat said.

The family had moved to the Valley this past summer, and Donlon commuted to her two jobs in the Anchorage area. One of those jobs involved working with children at an Anchorage school, Gernat said.

Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said there was plenty of evidence of bruising and other injuries to Lisa Donlon from doctors' examinations. There was no evidence, however, that Jason Donlon physically abused the children, he said.

Who killed him was never a mystery, Kalytiak said.

"It was never an issue of whether she shot him because she admitted to it when she called 911," Kalytiak said Monday. "Therefore, the grand jury must have found the shooting to be justified. Basically, her position was that she didn't have any other choice in the matter than to do what she did."

Kalytiak said he's sure some in the community will judge Donlon harshly for what she did.

"People will probably feel she had plenty of opportunities to help herself and will feel that since her husband was laying on his stomach at the time of the shooting, it wasn't a true self-defense case," he said.

"On the other hand, people who know about domestic violence point out that there are certain psychological aspects that lead victims to get to the point where they feel pretty desperate and that their choices are very limited."

Contact K.T. McKee at 352-6711.