PORTLAND, Ore. » Twelve years after killing her husband in a northeastern Oregon campground, Liysa Northon has left the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.
Now 50 years old, Northon pleaded guilty in 2001 in Enterprise to manslaughter in the shooting death of Chris Northon, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot with a home in Bend.
She said she was a victim of domestic violence who defended herself. Prosecutors said she aimed to gain life insurance and other widow’s benefits and property.
The story was the subject of true-crime writer Ann Rule’s 2003 book, "Heart Full of Lies," a book Northon and her new husband argue is riddled with errors.
The Oregonian reports Northon married freelance writer Rick Swart while in prison, and after her release Tuesday she has a new home waiting in the Eagle Creek community in Clackamas County.
Her release comes 12 years to the day after her husband’s slaying.
Swart was also the author of a 2011 story in a weekly Seattle newspaper about Northon’s case and Rule’s book. Swart did not disclose in the story that he was romantically involved with Northon.
Northon said that her then-husband was an alcoholic and drug addict before the shooting, and she feared for her life and those of her children.
"Chris had beaten the crap out of me," she said. "I defended my child and myself, and because of my action, my children got to grow up."
Chris Northon’s family denies he had a problem with substance abuse, and contends Liysa Northon killed her husband to claim $300,000 in life insurance and control of the couple’s property valued at $1 million, plus get airline widow’s benefits that would allow her to fly free.
"He was so loved by so many people; he was a wonderful person," said Chris’ mother, Jeanne Northon, 82, speaking from a home on Wallowa Lake near Joseph. "I hate the idea that Liysa can come to Wallowa County and that she would come to our front door someday."
The FBI produced a computer Northon had reported stolen during the trial that included material on the hard drive that proved she was researching forensics, ballistics and poisons. It also contained an email to a relative indicating that she needed a silencer for a gun and had plans to make a death look like an accident.
Northon said she never got to testify about the abuse she said she suffered at her husband’s hands: chokings, beatings and being nearly drowned the day she shot him.
Prosecutors planned to contend during trial, however, that she may have drugged him with a possibly fatal overdose of horse tranquilizer and tried to drown him in the Lostine River before shooting him.
Swart, Northon’s new husband, said questions about the past are irrelevant.
"She has done her time and she is going home, he said. "It’s as simple as that."