Kalispell Man Who Murdered Wife in 1979 Up for Parole

Sister of victim leading letter-writing effort to keep Jerry Forsyth behind bars

By Justin Franz
Sharon Snell's sister Karen Forsyth was murdered in 1979. Snell is hoping the community writes letters to keep the killer behind bars. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

A former Kalispell man who murdered his wife in 1979 is seeking parole this month and the sister of the victim is encouraging people to write letters in an effort to keep him behind bars.

Jerry Forsyth, now 71, will appear at a parole hearing at the Montana State Prison on May 23. Forsyth was sentenced in 1986 to 110 years in prison for shooting and killing his wife, Karen Forsyth, at the Kalispell bowling alley they owned together. Forsyth has been denied parole on three pervious occasions, most recently in 2012.

“Forsyth has never shown any remorse for what he did,” said Sharon Snell, Karen Forsyth’s sister who is leading the campaign to keep Jerry Forsyth in prison.

Jerry Forsyth shot and killed his wife on Dec. 11, 1979 with the help of a friend, Douglas Richards. Forsyth reportedly believed that if he got rid of his wife he would be able to retain full control of the bowling alley they owned together. Forsyth initially tried to poison his wife, then 31 years old, but when that failed he decided to shoot her in the head and make it look like a burglary. When police arrived at the bowling alley – located on First Avenue West – they found Karen Forsyth dead and Jerry Forsyth unconscious from an apparent strike to the head. A month later, Jerry Forsyth was arrested and charged with deliberate homicide, after Richards told police what had happened.

Forsyth was convicted at trial in 1980, but the conviction was later overturned on appeal because the judge had failed to give proper jury instructions. A second trial, held in Polson in 1982, ended with a hung jury. Forsyth was finally convicted in 1986. He was sentenced to 110 years in prison and became eligible for parole in 2000.

Snell said her family suspected Forsyth was the murderer since the beginning because of the young couple’s toxic relationship. Snell said that within a week of the murder, Forsyth had the woman he was seeing behind Karen’s back move in.

Snell said that she believes Forsyth is a calculating individual and is a danger to her family.

“I fear him. I’m scared to death of him and he should serve every bit of his sentence,” she said. “If he were to get out, it would just be horrifying that me or other people in my family would have to constantly be looking over our shoulders.”

Snell remembers her sister as a kind and genuine person who had a bright future ahead of her.

Anyone who is interested in writing letters to the parole board ahead of the May 23 hearing should write: Montana State Board of Pardons and Parole, 1002 Hollenbeck Road, Deer Lodge, Montana, 59722. Letters can also be emailed to [email protected] or faxed to (406) 846-3512.

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