Handwritten letters are considered by most to be a thing of the past. In the age of email, texts and blogs, to receive a letter is, for many, a rare occurrence.
When 40-year-old Julie Jensen, a wife and mother of two young boys, was found dead in her bed in December 1998, investigators initially believed suicide was the likely cause of death. District Attorney Bob Jambois was at the Jensen home that day and thought differently.
"It didn't look right," he told ABC News. "All kinds of things didn't fit."
But when the autopsy came back, his suspicions remained just that. There was no evidence of foul play.
It wasn't until a few days later that Margaret and Ted Wojt, Mark and Julie Jensen's neighbors, walked into the police department and handed police a sealed envelope. Just a week before, Julie had knocked on their front door and handed it to the couple. They told ABC News that Julie asked them to deliver it to law enforcement authorities if anything happened to her.
Inside the envelope detectives found a photo of Mark Jensen's daily planner with a strange list of items, including "syringe" and names of drugs. The photo was accompanied by a letter from Julie. The words were simple and shocking.
"I am suspicious of Mark's suspicious behaviors and fear for my early demise," she wrote. "If anything happens to me, he would be my first suspect. I would never take my life because of my kids — they are everything to me!"
An equally stunning letter was discovered by Douglas Grant hours after he said he found his wife, Faylene, lying lifeless in their bathtub. An autopsy revealed she had drowned and had high levels of the sleep medication Ambien in her system.
Her death was preceded by a series of strange events, according to her husband. In the months leading up to the drowning, Faylene had suddenly decided she and Doug needed to remarry after they'd been separated for more than a year.
According to letters, journal entries and trial testimony, Faylene believed her time on earth was limited, and that God was calling her. Faylene was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She believed in the Mormon doctrine of personal revelation, which states that a member of the faith can receive guidance directly from God.
A few days before her death, Doug and Faylene had taken a trip to Timpanogos Cave National Monument, in Utah. According to trial testimony, both Doug and Faylene told others she had fallen off a cliff and landed approximately 60 feet below. Doctors said surviving a fall of that height onto jagged rock was nothing short of a miracle.
Doug Grant denied pushing his wife, and though it might have helped his defense, he also refused to call Faylene's fall an attempted suicide.
Doug told ABC News that Faylene's preoccupation with her impending death ended after the fall at Timpanogos. But after her death, he said, he found several "goodbye" letters she had written some time before their trip to Utah.
Julie Jensen's Letter Reinstated As Evidence By Wisconsin Supreme Court
In one, addressed to Doug and ex-girlfriend Hilary DeWitt, Faylene asked them to marry as soon as possible and said she wanted to see them "sitting as husband and wife at [her] funeral." DeWitt told ABC News that Faylene had asked her to take care of the two boys Faylene shared with Doug.
The authorities never contested the authenticity of Faylene's letters and writings. Instead, they argued that Doug had somehow manipulated and encouraged Faylene's thoughts of suicide, then drowned her in the bathtub. A jury convicted Doug Grant of manslaughter in 2009, and he was sentenced to five years in prison.
The defense in the Julie Jensen case also acknowledged that the letter was indeed hers. Their argument was that the letter was inadmissible based on strict hearsay rules under the Sixth Amendment that state a defendant must have the opportunity to confront his or her accuser.
For five years, prosecutors fought to bring the letter back into evidence. Finally the Wisconsin Supreme Court created an exception. In its decision, the court allowed Julie Jensen's letter and statements as a dying declaration, and they were admitted into evidence. A jury later found Mark Jensen guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.