Debra Jenner’s case over the years

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A child victim–a mother accused–people across South Dakota watched closely as the case against Debra Jenner unfolded in the 1980s.

Now, decades later, Jenner will soon walk free.

Tuesday night we are taking a look back at this high-profile investigation, the trial and what led up to her parole.

April 1987|The Murder of Abby Jenner:

Just before 9 a.m. on April 5th, 1987 Debra Jenner called 9-1-1. Minutes later authorities arrived at this Huron home and discovered 3-year old Abby Lynn’s body in her bed. She’d been stabbed 70 times.

Court documents say while Debra and her husband were at the hospital with investigators, family members were inside the home cleaning up the crime scene.

Two days after their daughter’s death, Debra and her husband went in for questioning.

When asked if she’d killed Abby, Debra said quote, “I don’t remember” and quote, “I didn’t do this but I could have psyched out during the night.”

Debra also took a polygraph test which showed her answers were deceptive.

Two months later, the attorney general announced there was a suspect and a grand jury decided there was enough evidence for the suspect to face charges.

September 1987|Jenner pleads not guilty:

In September, 5 months after her daughter’s death, Debra Jenner pleaded not guilty to 2nd-degree murder and manslaughter.

February 1988|Murder Trial

Her trial began in February 1988.

Debra’s lawyers claimed someone from a party next door came into the home and killed Abby.

But jurors didn’t believe the story. They found Debra guilty and she was sentenced to life in prison.
It wasn’t long before the appeals began.


In 1998, Debra took her case to the South Dakota Supreme Court, claiming DNA evidence would clear her name.

But the justices refused to allow DNA tests on hair found in Abby Lynn’s hand.

2003|Gov. Janklow reduced sentence:

In 2003, then-governor Bill Janklow cut Jenner’s sentence to 100 years after Debra admitted to him that she murdered Abby.

September 2021|Parole granted

More than a dozen parole hearings followed Then just last week, 33 years after the murder, the parole board grants Jenner’s release. Debra Jenner’s final parole hearing didn’t get a lot of attention because the board failed to post in its online agenda.

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