By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
Grand Island -
Double murder suspect Michael Petersen pleaded no contest to murder Monday, and was found guilty of killing his ex-wife Nancy Petersen.
But there's no plea agreement in Hall County, where Petersen may still stand trial for an attorney's murder.
On Monday, Michael Petersen entered court for what was supposed to be a routine hearing. Defense attorney Jeff Pickens instead announced Petersen was changing his plea.
In exchange for the no contest plea to murder, prosecutor Shawn Eatherton dropped a weapons charge in Buffalo County.
Eatherton, the Buffalo County Attorney, presented the facts of the case. He said Petersen waited for his ex–wife to return to her Kearney area home and shot her from a distance, hitting her in the shoulder and back.
It resulted in a deep chest wound, killing Nancy Petersen. She was found dead a day later.
Buffalo County District Court Judge John Icenogle accepted the plea and found Petersen guilty and ordered a pre-sentence investigation.
Pickens said Petersen will likely decline to be part of that, and proceed with sentencing.
This plea agreement covers the charges in Buffalo County, but not those in Hall County. That means there's no resolution in the death of Todd Elsbernd, Michael Petersen's divorce attorney. That case was set to go to trial next month, but the judge continued it indefinitely.
In the meantime, Hall County Attorney Mark Young has provided a lot of evidence to the defense, including DVDs of interviews, along with hundreds of documents from the police investigation.
The gun that was used was never found, but multiple search warrants turned up other evidence.
Both county attorneys were in the courtroom Monday. They declined to comment, since there are still pending charges in Hall County.
Many family and friends of attorney Todd Elsbernd were also present.
The hearing was held in Hall County District Court, with Buffalo County District Court Judge John Icenogle presiding. Hall County District Court Judge James Livingston previously recused himself from the case.