Donna Thorngren

Ada County, Idaho
Date of Crime:  January 12, 2003

Donna Kay Thorngren was convicted of the murder of her 42-year-old husband, Curtis Thorngren. Curt was found shot to death in a bathroom in their home. Two months before the murder, Curt's life insurance, payable to Donna, had been increased to a payout of $320,000. The change was effective as of Jan 1, 2003, 11 days before Curt's murder. However, at Hewlett-Packard, Curt's place of employment, all employees were given the opportunity to increase their policies with new benefits effective the same date.

Curt had made it clear to the couple's 17-year-old son, Austin, that when he turned 18, he was going to be kicked out of the house for drug use and continuous crimes that he had been committing. Curt was found murdered two days before Austin turned 18. The family's home was frequently burglarized when it was left alone, especially on Sunday. Curt decided that someone would be home at all times. On the Christmas before his death, he and Donna took turns guarding the house while the other took the family to each of their respective parents' houses. Since Curt was murdered on a Sunday, it is possible that he interrupted burglars who mistakenly thought the house was unoccupied. In the year before Curt's death, his daughter Ana Lisa was attacked outside her grandmother's house after being warned to leave Austin alone.

The prosecution alleged that Donna either committed the murder herself or hired someone to do it. Some would regard this allegation as an admission of insufficient evidence. At trial, the prosecution called multiple witnesses who were either friends or former friends of Austin. The main witness appeared to be Adam Kettlerling, who had given police different versions of events to which he would later testify. Austin was charged with lying to the police about his knowledge of Donna committing the crime or hiring someone to commit the crime. He was never called at trial, and the charges against him were presumably intended to prevent him from becoming a defense witness, since they were dropped following Donna's trial.

The timing of the murder, two days before Austin was due to be thrown out, suggests that Austin and/or his friends had killed Curt. Donna accepted Austin's situation and had made plans with her daughter to use Austin's room to showcase the Elvis collectibles she had collected over the years. While it is possible that Donna could have used Austin's situation to murder Curt and throw suspicion elsewhere, it is unlikely, and such a crime theory would require significantly more proof than the testimony of Austin's friends, or former friends, who are possibly the real killers.

Police never tested the DNA of material found under Curt's fingernails, nor an unidentified palm print found next to Curt's body. Prosecutors showed explicit crime scene and autopsy photos to jurors, which is considered highly prejudicial in many jurisdictions, as jurors are apt to convict defendants with little or no evidence after seeing such photos. The Thorngren children all believe in their mother's innocence and had maintained a web site for her.  [9/08]


References:  website copy, KIVI-TV, 09, 10

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Idaho Cases, Husband Murder Cases