Aug. 13: Blaine man dies after wife gets out of jail

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE •PLOUWAGIE@STARTRIBUNE.COM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 7, 2008 - 1:25 PM

A Blaine man was found dead five hours after his wife returned home from jail for attempting his murder .

Sandra Hanson

It's either sad irony or something sinister.

Noel Hanson forgave his wife for trying to kill him in December. On Monday, five hours after Sandra Hanson got out of jail and returned to the couple's Blaine home to begin serving her probation sentence, Noel Hanson wound up dead.

Authorities are still awaiting autopsy results. Hanson, 57, was found dead in the bathroom of the couple's Blaine home about 8:30 p.m., authorities said. Sandra Hanson told them she didn't have anything to do with it, authorities said.

Noel had health problems, including diabetes and heart problems, and although nothing at the scene indicated an unnatural death, authorities are investigating.

"It's an ironic set of circumstances," Anoka County Sheriff's Office Lt. Paul Sommer said.

Sandra Hanson admitted to authorities that she attempted a murder-suicide in early December, writing in a suicide e-mail to a friend that the couple was facing eviction and had planned to kill themselves overnight. "Some things are best ended. We are together as always," the message read, according to a criminal complaint.

Responding to a report from the friend, police went to the couple's home and smelled natural gas. Sandra Hanson later told authorities that she had turned on the oven with the pilot light unlit while her husband was asleep and that he never even knew about their financial problems or the suicide idea, the complaint said.

Nor did he know that shots she had been giving him for diabetes and heart disease contained purified water because Sandra Hanson said she had no money for medicine, the complaint said.

At the time, a family friend explained her actions saying: "She was in a time of desperation and depression," Joe Brindley said. "She just made a wrong decision on this."

Sandra Hanson, 56, pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted murder in June. Anoka County District Judge Doug Meslow sentenced her on July 31 to 20 years of probation, ordering her to follow a long list of conditions, including receiving counseling and performing 100 hours of community service every year.

Hanson had asked that his wife receive no prison time, Meslow said. They'd been married more than 25 years.

"He spoke quite clearly and quite persuasively that he did not feel ... that he was in danger, and that he wanted his wife home," Meslow said in an interview Tuesday, adding that he couldn't say much more because there was a chance the case could come back to him. Meslow said that, like everyone, he is awaiting the autopsy results.

"It's a tragedy no matter what. Everybody's hoping that the reasons for the death at least don't cause other problems," he said. "The evidence will be what it will be."

After serving time in jail, Sandra Hanson was released Monday and someone from the public defender's office dropped her off at the couple's home about 3:30 p.m., Sommer said. Five hours later, she called authorities.

Husband felt safe

Noel Hanson didn't want his wife to serve a prison term for what she had done in December, their friend Brindley said Tuesday. Sandra had been struggling with depression, he said.

When Sandra was arrested, Brindley said, he stepped in to help keep him from getting evicted and to take Noel to the grocery store. The two had worked together counseling at-risk kids before Noel was forced to stop because of a stroke.

He said Noel had been feeling good the past couple of weeks and was ready to welcome Sandra home. He and Noel discussed her return, Brindley said, and Noel felt safe.

Tuesday morning, Brindley said, he got word that his friend had passed away. Sandra eventually called, too, he said, and left a message saying she and Noel had had a few quality hours together, but Noel had passed away. She indicated it was natural causes, Brindley said.

Awaiting test results

It may be awhile before authorities know for sure how Noel Hanson died. Sommer, of the sheriff's office, said it often takes days or weeks for toxicology and blood tests to be returned. He said Sandra Hanson was not taken into custody.

Shawn Webb, who served as a public defender for Sandra Hanson in the December case, said Tuesday that he hadn't heard from her.

"It appears, from my vantage point, as a horrible coincidence," he said. "My general perception is that any alleged foul play that would have happened that quickly would have been much more obvious."

Webb said it was "abundantly clear" to everyone in the courtroom at her sentencing that the couple wanted to reunite. She talked about wanting to try to heal the rift and the pain that she caused him, Webb said.

A telephone number for the couple's home was disconnected. A call to Noel Hanson's cell phone was not returned.

Sommer said it's important to note that police are not calling Sandra Hanson a suspect.

"We're just investigating the circumstances," Sommer said. "As they are, we would be remiss if we didn't investigate further."

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102

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