October 19, 1991
Concord, New Hampshire
James Colbert strangles his estranged wife and smothers their three young daughters

Colbert and his wife, Mary Jayne Jenovese, had married three years before the murders, though their marriage became strained almost immediately. In August of 1991, Jenovese reported Colbert had cut her with a razor blade. Colbert allegedly threatened to “buy [Jenovese] a bullet” in September, and he raped her on October 2. Jenovese filed for divorce on October 8, citing the physical and sexual assaults and death threat.

On October 19, Colbert and Jenovese “made love” before he strangled her. After murdering his wife, he used his hands to cover the noses and mouths of his daughters — Emily (2 and a half), Elise (18 months), and Patricia (10 weeks) — as they slept. After the girls were dead, he positioned their bodies to appear as though they were sleeping and left a suicide note in the bedroom with his wife’s body. In the note, he mentioned he loved “M.J.” and didn’t want to see his kids with the man Jenovese had recently started seeing.

On October 20, police talked Colbert from a bridge ledge. He was arrested and gave police details regarding the murders, telling them he was angry and jealous Jenovese was divorcing him and seeing another man. He also told them he kissed Jenovese after he strangled her and made the sign of the cross over each of his daughters before he smothered them.

At trial, Colbert attempted an insanity plea which was unsuccessful. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On March 14, 2012, Colbert died at the age of 59 from cancer.

Clipping: The Boston Globe, Oct 22, 1991

“Man in prison for killing family dies,” The Boston Globe [Boston, Massachusetts], March 18, 2012
“Jury rules man sane when he killed family,” The Times [Shreveport, Louisiana], August 11, 1992
Baker, Frank, “Jurors mull sanity of man who killed wife, 3 daughters,” The Boston Globe [Boston, Massachusetts], August 9, 1992
Bernotas, Adolphe V., “Authorities: Man Said He Had Sex With Estranged Wife Before Killing Family,” Associated Press, October 22, 1991
Milne, John, “Man Charged with 4 Murders,” The Boston Globe [Boston, Massachusetts], October 22, 1991
Kiernan, Laura A., “Victim hoped to put abuse in past, business in future,” The Boston Globe [Boston, Massachusetts] October 22, 1991

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