COEUR D’ALENE — An Idaho woman who killed her husband with an over-the-counter medication as an embezzlement scheme unraveled will likely spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Laurcene “Lori” Barnes Isenberg, 67, was sentenced 30 years to life in prison Monday by District Judge Scott Wayman. Isenberg pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in February. She was originally charged with first-degree murder for the February 2018 killing of her husband, 68-year-old Larry Isenberg.
Dressed in a red jail uniform, Isenberg spoke for almost 45 minutes before being sentenced and showed little emotion as she learned her fate.
“It’s not easy, but I want you to see the good, the bad, the ugly,” Isenberg said. “I emphatically know I am responsible for Larry’s death, and I’ve known that from the very first day.”
Reports show the couple launched a boat on Feb. 13, 2018, on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Two hours later, Isenberg called 911 to report her husband went overboard while attempting to fix the boat’s motor. She claimed she left her cell phone onshore.
Larry Isenberg’s body wasn’t found until March 1, 2018, and a subsequent autopsy showed he died from a drug overdose.
The coroner’s found he died of diphenhydramine toxicity, the active ingredient in Benadryl. The drug is an antihistamine used to treat allergies. Diphenhydramine is known to cause drowsiness and is also used as a sleep aid.
According to a search warrant issued in Spokane County, Washington, obtained by The Coeur d’Alene Press, normal dosages of diphenhydramine are between 100 and 1,000 nanograms. Larry Isenberg was found to have 7,100 nanograms of the drug in his blood – a lethal dose.
Days before investigators found his body, authorities arrested Lori Isenberg for stealing $579,495 from the North Idaho Housing Coalition through wire fraud and federal program theft. She pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court and in May 2019 began serving a five-year federal prison sentence for the crime.
During the hearing, Isenberg said she stole the money to help her struggling children. But prosecutors said the woman searched the internet for information on drownings in the days before the murder. They described her as “manipulative and cunning” and someone who would lie to make any situation better.
Investigators did not determine exactly how Larry ingested the diphenhydramine and died on the lake, according to prosecutors.
“From the very beginning, I say a week or two after the embezzlement was discovered, I knew my life was over and I had two options. Death or life in prison,” Isenberg said.
She explained remembering she wanted to take her own life by drowning to save her family from the embarrassment of her embezzlement. However, the morning on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Isenberg said she does not remember all the details of killing her husband.
“It was a shock of horror and confusion,” Isenberg said.
Isenburg explained she made a drink with Benadryl for herself with the intent to take her own life. However, Larry drank it, and he died that morning on the lake.
“After Larry’s death on the boat, I told him, ‘I’m going to join you, but it can’t be right now because I can’t leave the family in a mess like this,'” Isenberg said. “The thought did come to me to just jump over the boat and join him.”
Isenberg did not go into detail about how Larry ended up in the water that morning.
“I have no doubt in listening to you and reviewing the statements you made today – (they) are your truth,” Wayman said. “That is the truth you have sided on. That is the truth you are going to live with and nothing is going to change that … (but) I reviewed all the evidence (and) your truth doesn’t hold up.”