Liysa Northon, was a battered woman who killed her abusive husband to protect her children in desperation after being very badly let down by the state. Liysa admitted shooting her husband Chris Northon in October 2000 while they were camped at Maxwell Campground in the Wallowa Mountains of Northeast Oregon. However, for almost four years prior to his demise, Chris turned Liysa into a human punch bag. He hit her in the face with his fist, hit her head against the wall, dragged her by the hair, and kicked her in the ribs. He nearly choked her to death on several occasions, once threw her out of a moving car, and threatened to kill and dismember her and their two children or burn the house down with them in it. The real story is that Chris, a handsome airline pilot maintained a double life. Outwardly, he was charming and responsible while behind closed doors he brutalized his wife, terrorized their children, abused illegal drugs and alcohol.
Police interview with Liysa’s older son “Zack” (age 9)
Note: children’s names have been changed. “Dave” is Zack’s younger brother.
When asked what it was like living with Chris, Zack told police “It wasn’t very nice. I would take Dave into another room or place so we wouldn’t see Mom get beat up.”
“He was always mean unless other people were around. He would throw anything he could get his hands on. Chairs, books, bottles – he would ram my mom’s head against the table, pulled her hair out, grab her by the back of the hair and pull it out”.
At both the Oregon and Hawaii homes, Chris had told the family “I’ll kill you and burn the house down.” Chris also told Zack that he would kill them and eat them.
“Every time they argued, mom got hurt. Like a black eye or something like that – or a scar or something”. Zack volunteered that Liysa didn’t divorce Chris because of Dave. If Liysa were to get a divorce, Chris said he would hurt Dave to get back at Liysa.
Prior to leaving for the camping trip, Chris had abused Lysa. He threw bottles and books at her, and broke a chair.
“He’s choked my mom before. He would have these temper tantrums where he would scream at mom. He would keep choking my mom until she quit fighting“.
Zack confirmed what Liysa told the police. Liysa told Zack she had shot at Chris in the dark, and didn’t know whether he was dead or alive.
Zack then asked his mum why she had shot Chris. She told him “Because I didn’t want him to hurt you or Dave“.
See Detective interview with Zack , the original police report to verify everything above.
See http://www.liysanorthon.com/documentation.html for additional documentation if you still don’t believe Liysa was abused.
Domestic Violence Law
This is a textbook case where existing laws do not always work properly. Liysa was acting in self-defense, and defending her children. due to “battered person syndrome”. She had been driven to such an extreme by the terrible lack of support from the state in dealing with her very abusive husband. Chris Northon should have been sent to prison (unless he accepted counselling) and denied any access to Liysa and her children until he showed remorse for his abuse. If this had been done, he might still be alive today. On the advice of her lawyers, Liysa plead guilty to manslaughter, and served 12 years in prison. She should not have been charged, or at most charged with manslaughter, and her action should have been legally recognised as self defense ( of herself and her children ). I believe Liysa was in very real, justified, fear of her life when she shot Chris. This outcome was a massive injustice for Liysa and her children.
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In 2003, Rule’s publisher released Heart Full of Lies, a book about Liysa Northon, who maintains that she was a battered spouse and that she shot her husband in 2000 to protect herself and her children. Rule’s book suggested Liysa Northon premeditated the killing and faked evidence of abuse.
A defamation lawsuit filed by Northon against Rule and her publishers was dismissed in January 2011 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Northon was released from prison in October 2012 twelve years after killing her husband.
Rule filed a libel lawsuit against the Seattle Weekly newspaper in July 2013, saying she was defamed in 2011 when the fiancé of Northon wrote an article accusing Rule of “sloppy storytelling.” The suit, filed in King County Superior Court in July 2013, argued that damage was done because Rule, to sell her books, relies on her reputation for accuracy.
On February 24 and 25, 2014, a judge made two rulings dismissing the claims, finding that Rule’s suit violated a Washington state law barring lawsuits that target the legal exercise of free speech and public participation, and that Rule had not established there were any false, defamatory statements about her in the article. The judge awarded Rick Swart, the newspaper and two other defendants $10,000 each in damages, plus attorneys fees and costs. “Rule admitted that she never interviewed Liysa or members of her immediate family,” said Swart.
- Liysa’s efforts to stop the abuse
- The Case of Liysa Northon – Who Said True Crime Does Not Pay? by Lise LaSalle
- Battered person syndrome Wikipedia
- Francine Hughes (wikipedia) A similar case (1977) where an abused woman was sensibly acquitted on legally dubious grounds of “temporary insanity”.
- www.liysanorthon.com For much more information about the case.
- Apology from Former Oregon Attorney General Hardy Meyers October 7th, 2013.
- Observations on the law of self-defense by the author of this site.
- “Grace and acceptance” by David Holmes, has chapter contributed by Liysa. See http://millelacscountytimes.com/2013/10/03/program-raise-domestic-abuse-awareness/
- Facebook Page