- Associated Press - Thursday, May 29, 2014

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska man accused of shooting to death his ex-wife and the attorney who represented him in his divorce has been sentenced to life in prison.

Michael Petersen, 58, of rural Glenvil, was sentenced Wednesday in Buffalo County District Court after pleading no contest last month to first-degree murder in the Nov. 13 shooting death of Nancy Petersen outside her home, the Kearney Hub reported (https://bit.ly/1jw6j4y ). In exchange for his plea, a weapons count in the shooting death of his ex-wife was dropped.

Petersen also faces first-degree murder and weapons charges in Hall County District Court for the death of 52-year-old attorney Todd Elsbernd, who was shot and killed hours after Nancy Petersen’s body was discovered.

Petersen’s criminal defense attorney said Wednesday that Petersen remains bitter over money awarded to his ex-wife in their 2005 divorce. Nancy Petersen was awarded half of the couple’s $600,000 estate in the divorce, attorney Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Public Advocacy Network in Lincoln said.

Petersen had accused Elsbernd of legal malpractice in the divorce case, and Petersen and Elsbernd were in an ongoing dispute over attorney fees at the time of Elsbernd’s death. Petersen also tried unsuccessfully to sue his former lawyer.

The divorce award and two Nigerian scams that cost Michael Petersen another $140,000 to $150,000 had left him penniless, Pickens said.

“This man had worked hard for 40 years. Much of his hard work over those 40 years was gone,” Pickens said. “He’d had enough of being screwed by people.”

Prosecutors say Michael Petersen shot Elsbernd as the lawyer stood outside his law office in downtown Grand Island. Elsbernd was shot in the back with a high-velocity rifle.

Petersen has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from Elsbernd’s death and faces another mandatory life sentence if convicted. That case is pending.


Information from: Kearney Hub, https://www.kearneyhub.com/

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