Domestic-violence victim charged in spouse's death

Lisa DemerAlaska Dispatch News

After initially deciding not to charge a Butte woman for killing her husband, a Palmer grand jury received new information and has now indicted the woman on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Lisa Donlon, now 38 and the mother of three boys, shot Jason Donlon, 40, once in the head and five times in the back with a .45-caliber handgun early Oct. 7 as he lay in their bed, prosecutors have said.

She then called 911 and admitted shooting her husband, prosecutors say.

The initial decision by the grand jury to not charge her was based in part on evidence that Lisa Donlon was a victim of domestic violence, prosecutors say. Doctors had documented injuries. And back in 2006, she had sought a restraining order to protect herself from her husband.

"Her claim was, and is, that the murder was justified," Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said Monday.

Donlon testified before the grand jury, which is unusual for the target of a criminal investigation. For suspects who believe what they did was justified, "the grand jury would provide a good place for them to make their feelings known or to give their side of the story," the district attorney said.

Usually police bring initial charges and prosecutors seek an indictment within a specified number of days.

"In this case, there was an ongoing investigation and a decision was made not to charge her right away but to present it to the grand jury in the format of an investigative grand jury case," Kalytiak said.

The same grand jury that heard the case in October revisited it in December when the district attorney's office presented additional information it had received, he said.

He said he could not disclose what that information was because the inner workings of a grand jury are secret.

Court papers show trouble in the Donlon marriage back in 2006, when the family was living in Eagle River.

The couple married July 4, 1995, in Greenville, S.C., a divorce filing said.

When Lisa Donlon filed paperwork for a civil restraining order on Nov. 6, 2006, she wrote that her husband had been violent toward her and that things had blown up when she announced to him the week before that she wanted a divorce.

"He packed his things, told the kids bye. Twenty minutes later he came back with his two loaded guns. He was trying to force me to call the police because he wanted to be shot by police officers so it wouldn't look like a suicide," Lisa Donlon wrote.

She was afraid for her life, and his, she wrote. She didn't know what he might do. She left the house with their children.

He had pointed a gun to her chest before, she wrote. He also had thrown her out of the house with no clothes on, an event witnessed by one of their sons. Another time, he choked her unconscious, she wrote.

She didn't report him to police because she was scared.

"I'm afraid now to face my husband before our divorce process is over. I have a feeling that he would use his guns easily and I don't want to create any situation that would trigger that," she wrote.

At the time, she wasn't working. Jason Donlon was a computer tech for the Alaska Army National Guard, she wrote.

She was granted a temporary restraining order.

Just two days later, on Nov. 8, 2006, it was Jason Donlon, not Lisa, who filed for divorce. He was seeking custody of their three young sons.

That Nov. 13, he twice called the children's school to find out if they were there, even though he was under court order not to do that. He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of violating the protective order. That criminal case later was dropped.

Within weeks, the Donlons were reconciling. On Dec. 28, 2006, Jason Donlon asked a judge to dismiss the divorce case.

This past summer, the family moved to the Valley. Bills were mounting for Lisa Donlon back in Anchorage, according to a small claims case filed against her in July.

She didn't respond to the case until Nov. 22.

"Due to my domestic violence issues, I apologize for the lateness," she wrote.

When Jason Donlon was killed, the family was living in a storage shed behind the home of his mother and stepfather, prosecutors have said.

Two of their sons were home at the time. Their children now are age 13 and under.

Lisa Donlon is being held on $100,000 bail at the Mat-Su pretrial facility.

A bail hearing is set for Wednesday.

Find Lisa Demer online at or call 257-4390.

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