Parole Denied for Kalispell Man Who Murdered Wife in 1979

Forsyth was sentenced in 1986 to 110 years in prison for shooting and killing his wife

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 71-year-old Kalispell man who murdered his wife in 1979 will remain behind bars for at least another five years.

The Montana State Board of Pardons and Parole denied a parole request by Jerry Forsyth on June 27. Forsyth will not be eligible for parole again until 2023.

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 had been denied parole on three pervious occasions, most recently in 2012.

Sharon Snell, Karen Forsyth’s sister, expressed gratitude to the parole board shortly after the hearing at the Montana State Prison.

“I’m thrilled and relieved,” she said.

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.

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 told the Beacon earlier this year. “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.”

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