PALMER — While her kids waited in the car, Lisa Donlon said her husband walked her into the woods.

Getting her that far had been a struggle. First she’d tried to lock him out of the family SUV. Then, when he pulled her out of the vehicle and she fell on the ground, she refused to stand up.

“He said, ‘if you don’t walk right now I’m going to do it right here,’” Lisa Donlon said Thursday from the witness stand. She said she believes her husband intended to kill her — right there, next to the SUV with their boys waiting inside. She said she gave up and went with him after her husband told her, “I’ll have to take them out, too, because they can’t go through their lives being witnesses.”

Donlon was on the witness stand testifying in her own trial for allegedly murdering her husband. Two days after the incident in the woods, she shot him in the back while he lay in their bed. Her attorneys argue she had no choice, that Jason Donlon wouldn’t let her leave and that he had been torturing her.

Prosecutors in the case argue that she was not a prisoner and that she had other options better than shooting a man who was very likely sleeping.

The argument that led to the incident in the woods off of the Jim Creek trails began after Jason Donlon found some text messages between his wife and one of her co-workers.

Donlon said she told her husband she and the co-worker had been flirting for three weeks and that they’d kissed only once. She said on the witness stand that was a lie — it’d been going on five weeks and they’d kissed five times. She said he believed there was way more too it and was demanding answers.

On the trail in the Butte, Donlon said her husband choked her until her knees were weak and her vision blurry. Then he gave her three options — shoot herself, overdose on the post-surgery pain medications she’d been taking and that he had in his pocket, or let him strangle her. She opted for the pills.

“He gave them to me and I was taking some and he snatched them back and said, ‘you’re not getting off that easy,’” Donlon testified in court Thursday.

So they went back to their house. Her husband tried — though often failed — to remain controlled when the kids were around. But the next day when the children went to school, she said he bound her hands, connected them to a pulley system and tied that to a hook in the roof. He sprayed her with rubbing alcohol and tried to light her on fire.

“I kept blowing the lighter out and that made him more mad,” she said.

So he hit her with a belt, punched her and slapped her. He told her if she screamed she might get someone killed as he would have to take out potential witnesses. At the end he had sex with her — “forced himself on me,” Donlon testified — and went to sleep like nothing had happened.

Donlon said their relationship had been abusive for years, starting in South Carolina where he worked as a police officer. He would hit her, slap her and sometimes choke her. Three times he choked her until she passed out, she testified.

A few years after moving to Alaska, he deployed with the military to Iraq. He came back and things got worse. She tried to leave him in 2006, but he found her at a women’s shelter in Anchorage, the location of which, she said, she’d been told was supposed to be a secret. That’s why she didn’t think she could leave when he was tying her to the ceiling of their one-room cabin.

“I had left before and he had found me,” she said. “I had went to a shelter where I was supposed to be protected and it was supposed to be a secret.”

So, having been told the torture would resume the next day she shot him after one of their sons had gone to school, but before the other two left.

Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at or 352-2270.

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