- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska man who had been sentenced to life in prison for killing his ex-wife and his divorce lawyer last November died Monday after hanging himself in his cell.

Prison officials said Michael Petersen, 58, was found hanging in his cell at the Lincoln Correctional Center shortly after 6 a.m. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, and he died at 6:47 a.m.

Petersen, of rural Glenvil, received his second life sentence last month for the shooting death of Grand Island attorney Todd Elsbernd on Nov. 13. Petersen had already been sentenced in May to life for killing Nancy Petersen a few hours earlier outside her home in Buffalo County.

Petersen’s attorney, Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, had said in court that Petersen remained bitter over money awarded to his ex-wife in their 2005 divorce and blamed Elsbernd for a mistake in the paperwork. Nancy Petersen was awarded half of the couple’s $600,000 estate in the divorce.

After the divorce, Michael Petersen fell victim to two Nigerian scams that cost him between him $140,000 and $150,000 and left him with little money.

Petersen had unsuccessfully tried to sue Elsbernd over attorney fees and the way he handled the divorce case.

Prosecutors said a few hours after Michael Petersen shot and killed Nancy Petersen outside her rural Buffalo County home, he shot Elsbernd, 52, in his back outside his Grand Island law office.

Both Elsbernd and Nancy Petersen were shot with a high-velocity rifle.

Michael Petersen pleaded no contest in both shootings as part of agreements with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.

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