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Death of Crow Wing County woman still a mystery to police
Two weeks after the nude body of a Crow Wing County woman was found at the bottom of a lake -- with a 25-pound metal weight anchoring her down -- authorities are still trying to figure out what happened.
In a search warrant filed Monday, investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said they were trying to determine whether the death of Nancy Hesner, 61, was "a suicide, assisted suicide or murder."
An autopsy showed remnants of pills in her stomach, but the cause of death wasn't determined.
Authorities say Hesner's husband, Gerald Jones, had his attorney call police on Dec. 18 to report that his wife had committed suicide and that her body was under ice at the bottom of Borden Lake near Garrison. Her body was found Dec. 23.
"There is no question it is an unusual situation," said Jones' attorney, Robert Sicoli. "I can understand why the authorities are investigating it and determining what happened. It is unusual, but he is not guilty of any wrongdoing."
The search warrant allowed authorities to search Jones' computer. It also revealed some details of the investigation.
In the warrant, authorities said the couple's housekeeper told them about a conversation she had with Jones, 65. The housekeeper said Jones told her that while on the lake's shore in September, his wife asked him how to tie a knot. On that fall day the couple, from Garrison, boarded a boat, with Hesner wearing only a blanket.
The housekeeper told authorities that Jones said he heard his wife say, "Oh, my God" and a splash, and Hesner disappeared in the water.
According to the housekeeper's account, Jones told the housekeeper that Hesner had instructed Jones not to report her suicide until ice formed on the lake because she "wanted to swim with the fish."
The housekeeper also reported that after Hesner disappeared, Jones initially told her his wife was in Florida.
It's illegal in Minnesota to assist or encourage suicide. Police are still waiting for a positive identification of the body and a ruling on the cause of death.
"We have an individual who is deceased under some strange circumstances. We are looking into that," said Capt. Neal Gaalswyk of the Crow Wing County sheriff's office. "We have had no direct contact with the husband."
Hesner's mother said she doesn't believe the death was a suicide.
"I am not buying any of that," said Alvina Hesner, of Maple Grove. She added that she wondered why Jones waited so long to call authorities. "Why didn't he call me? I am her mother."
In August 2005, Crow Wing County sheriff's deputies were called to the couple's lake home for an alleged an attempted suicide. They discovered large bricks with ropes tied to them, melted ice cream, crushed pills and a note that referenced the assisted suicide book "Final Exit."
The note also indicated Nancy Hesner had consumed a variety of drugs and listed "alcohol, if needed, ice-cream, and drowned off the dock tied down with rope and concrete blocks if necessary."
"She received some psychiatric care after August 2005 as a result of that attempted suicide," Sicoli said.
But authorities also discovered other evidence.
From June 1 through Dec. 21, Jones spent 119 hours in Grand Casino Mille Lacs and wagered as much as $376,000. Crime scene investigators found two rugs and a latent handprint in the couple's house that tested positive for presumptive blood evidence.
Nancy Hesner's aunt, Joy Jacobson, told police her niece was paid a large sum of money for her work as a grant writer for Grand Casino Mille Lacs. Hesner's will leaves her estate to her husband.
Sicoli declined to discuss details of the investigation.
"Obviously, the loss of his wife is traumatic as well as this investigation," Sicoli said. "But he is doing fine under the circumstances."
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