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Was It Suicide Or Murder?

In another in the series of Monday Night Mysteries,, in conjunction with CBS News 48 Hours, examines the strange case of Jane Neumann, a young mother who seemed to have everything going for her.

Thirty-year-old Jane Neumann was almost the last person you might expect to commit suicide. She had a beautiful daughter, a loving husband, and a nice house in the town of Hudson, Wisconsin. But on Nov. 22, 1993, Jane Neumann wound up dead, shot in the head at close range with a shotgun.

The signs of suicide are not always obvious. For more on the subject, take a look at these Suicide-Related Sites.
After first telling police he thought she had been murdered, her husband Jim, who discovered her, said she had committed suicide. He said that in order to keep her memory from being sullied, he had covered up her act, getting rid of the note and the gun that he said he had found.

Although officials ruled her death a suicide, Neumann's parents and siblings remained suspicious, and continued to investigate. How could she have killed herself with a shotgun when she had no experience at all with firearms, they wondered. Among their discoveries: Several weeks before Jane died Jim had given away the family dog, Molly. At the time, he told the animal center that he was giving the pet away because her owner had died.

To exact some kind of retribution, Jane's family sued their former son-in-law in civil court. (Juries use a lower standard of proof in civil court than they do in criminal court.) After a long, hard-fought trial during which both sides made convincing cases for their argument, a jury of 12 men and women decided that Jim had in fact had something to do with his wife's death.

The key detail that swayed the jury: the absence of marks on Jane's supposed trigger finger. According to Jim, his wife had pulled the trigger using fishing line tied to the trigger. The recoil, jurors believed, would have severely cut her finger. But according to coroners, there was no mark.

Despite the decision, Jim Neumann is free. Jane's parents are not seeking monetary damages: they don't want to bankrupt the man who continues to raising their grandson. Jim recently filed a petition to revoke the grandparents visitation rights. The court has not yet made a decision.

Who Killed Jane?: More on this 48 Hours Monday Night Mystery.

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