Nathan Summerfield pleaded guilty on Monday to second degree homicide
and two kidnapping charges, he had planned to mount a defense based on
his use of sleep medication the night he killed his former girlfriend
two years ago during a July Fourth vacation on Hatteras Island.
pleads guilty, sentenced to 30 years
Summerfield, 29, apologized to Lynn Jackenheimer’s family in Dare
County Superior Court, as well as to his parents and son with
Jackenheimer before being taken away to prison.
never would’ve occurred if it wasn’t for Ambien,” he said. “I admit
responsibility for what happened (but) that does not diminish the pain
and suffering of Lynn’s family.”
Wearing a dark suit and blue
dress shirt, a clean-shaven Summerfield spoke in a steady voice,
addressing the court. He did not look at Jackenheimer’s family who
filled the front two benches of the courtroom’s right side.
“I certainly never intended for anything like to this to happen,” he
Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett sentenced Summerfield to a minimum
of 30 years in prison and a maximum of 38 ½ years.
sleep technician from Ashland, Ohio, had appeared last Tuesday before
Tillett for pre-trial motions, but there was no mention in the court of
a possible plea arrangement. His first-degree murder trial
strangling and stabbing Jackenheimer had been scheduled to begin on
Defense attorney Samuel Dixon said after court on
Monday that he and co-defense counsel Jackson Warmack, both from
Edenton, had been negotiating for about a month with special prosecutor
H.P. Williams, who had set a deadline to accept the plea deal for last
Dixon said that his client would have been facing the
possibility of life in prison without parole on the original charge.
Prosecutors had decided last year that the case did not qualify for the
But the defense, Dixon said, was prepared to go
to trial and had three expert witnesses lined up to testify about the
bad effects of Ambien.
As part of the plea, the first-degree
murder charge was changed to second-degree homicide, with the condition
that one count of first-degree kidnapping and one count of
second-degree kidnapping be added because Summerfield had taken the
children in his vehicle after killing Jackenheimer.
from Elizabeth City, said later that the sentence for
second-degree murder would have been insufficient by itself – about 18
to 23 years minimum. The prosecutor also said that Summerfield likely
would have had a considerable challenge proving his case at a trial.
“In my opinion, the Ambien defense would not have worked,” Williams
said, “because he remembered too much of what happened.”
and Jackenheimer, also from Ashland, had agreed to go to Hatteras on
July 1 to share the holiday with Jackenheimer’s daughter,
13, and the couple’s son, then 3, Dare County Sheriff’s Office
investigator Doug Oberbeck told the court.
apparently going well, he testified, until just before midnight on July
3, when Jackenheimer, 33, had a cell phone conversation with
friend. That was the last time anyone had contact with her.
July 6, Summerfield checked out of the rental cottage. Two days later,
he said, Summerfield’s brother, Jacob, call 911 to report that Nathan
had confessed to strangling Lynn and “placing her in brush.”
his brother's encouraging him to turn himself in, Oberbeck continued,
Summerfield fled. But before he disappeared, he dropped the children
off in Ohio - their son with family and Lynn’s daughter,
Sheppard, at his place.
“She was reportedly upset, scared and
alone at that point,” Oberbeck testified, adding that the girl has
special needs and had the mind of a 6-year-old.
Summerfield had said the couple “drank too much” that night, in
addition to the Ambien sleeping pills he said he had taken.
July 14, Jackenheimer’s body was found off a Frisco cul-de-sac, wrapped
in a blanket and plastic wrap and put in trash bags. An autopsy
determined that she had been strangled and stabbed five or six
times in the neck.
Remnants of blood stains that had been cleaned up were found later in
the lower level of the rental cottage, Oberbeck said.
“There was a struggle,” he testified. “She was moved from various
places in the house, or restrained.”
daughter was sleeping in an adjacent room, Oberbeck said. Her son
apparently witnessed the murder, but he has rarely spoken about it.
“He indicated he was there,” he said.
it is not known for certain what caused the violence, Oberbeck said, it
appears to have been spurred by “an attempted kiss, or an attempt to
rekindle their relationship.”
“He wanted to get back together,” the investigator testified. “She was
dating someone else.”
had earlier told her friend, he said, that she was not in love with
Nathan and had no intention of getting back with him.
Jackenheimer’s mother, Lora Johnson, was helped out of the courtroom
during part of Oberbeck’s testimony.
who was arrested in Ohio on Aug. 15, 2012, had a
domestic abuse with Jackenheimer and at least one previous girlfriend.
Tillett asked the family if they were in agreement with the plea
“Yes, your honor,” responded Lora Johnson, Lynn’s mother. “We must be
able to move forward.”
Ciara, now 15, read a statement to Summerfield before he was sentenced.
did you take my mom away from me?” she asked. “You are . . .
worst person I have ever met. You should forever be ashamed of
yourself, no matter if you say sorry or not.”
Jackenheimer’s sister, Tasha Holland, read her mother’s statement to
the court, followed by her own statement.
“When you made the choice to take Lynn’s life,” Holland read for her
mother, Lora Johnson, “you took our lives also.”
Johnson also condemned Summerfield for the harm he has done to the
had to fight for her life, knowing her child was watching,” Holland
read. “Ciara carries the guilt of not waking up to stop you.”
Raymond Johnson, Lynn’s stepfather, began speaking, he was visibly
shaking with anger toward Summerfield, shouted at him, and started
sobbing. Summerfield was led from the courtroom while Johnson composed
Tillett sentenced Summerfield to 225-282 months for
second-degree murder, 104 to 134 months for first-degree kidnapping,
and 31 to 47 months for second-degree kidnapping. The sentences are to
be served consecutively, with credit for time served. And the sentences
provide for the possibility of parole.