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Murder of Larry McNabney

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Laren Renee Sims
Larry (right) and Elisa (left)
Born(1966-01-20)January 20, 1966
DiedMarch 31, 2002(2002-03-31) (aged 36)
Other namesElisa McNabney, Tammy Keelin, Elizabeth Barasch, Shane Ivaroni
Criminal statusDeceased (suicide)
SpouseLarry McNabney (1996–2001)
ChildrenHaylei Jordan
Cole Wilson
Parent(s)Jesse Sims
Jackie Sims
MotiveFinancial gain
Criminal chargeFirst degree murder
Sarah Elizabeth Dutra
Born (1980-08-14) August 14, 1980 (age 43)
Criminal statusReleased
Parent(s)Mark Dutra
Karen Dutra
MotiveFinancial gain
Conviction(s)Voluntary manslaughter
Criminal chargeCapital murder
Penalty11 years and 8 months in prison

Larry McNabney (December 19, 1948 – September 12, 2001) was a Sacramento, California, attorney whose body was found buried in a vineyard on February 5, 2002.[1] After a nationwide manhunt, his wife, Elisa McNabney, was captured in Florida and arraigned for first-degree murder. The case made national headlines when police learned that her real name was actually Laren Sims, and that she had served time in a Florida prison for fraud and identity theft.[2] Before Elisa could stand trial however, she hanged herself in her jail cell.[3] Elisa's friend Sarah Dutra was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 11 years in prison for murdering Larry McNabney.[4]

Elisa McNabney (January 20, 1966 – March 31, 2002) was born Laren Renee Sims to parents Jesse and Jackie Sims[5] in Attleboro, Massachusetts, before moving to Florida. Laren was a cheerleader and excellent student at Hernando High School; she had an IQ of 140.[5] Despite her intelligence, she dropped out of high school, had two children with two different fathers, and started stealing. Laren was arrested for stealing a L'Oreal hair color kit from a Woolworth's in Tampa, Florida. After being released on that charge, she violated her probation by illegally using a credit card. She cut off her ankle monitor and headed to Las Vegas, Nevada, with her daughter Haylei (born January 29, 1985).[5]


Over the years, Laren Sims had a total of 38 aliases,[5] including:

  • Melissa Godwin
  • Tammy Keelin
  • Elizabeth Barasch – a woman she met in Florida prison
  • Elisa Redelsperger – the name she used when she met Larry McNabney
  • Shane Ivaroni – the name she used while she was on the run

Marriage to Larry McNabney[edit]

Elisa Redelsperger met Larry McNabney in 1995 when she applied for a job at his Las Vegas law office. She worked as his office manager and assisted McNabney in settling a number of large cases.[5] Subsequently, in late 1995, Larry's law firm was investigated by the Nevada State Bar, which determined that Elisa embezzled more than $140,000 from clients. Larry closed his offices in Reno and Las Vegas in Nevada and moved his practice to Sacramento, California.[1] Despite this, Elisa became McNabney's fifth wife in 1996.[1]


On September 10, 2001, following a horse show, Elisa McNabney and her fellow employee and friend Sarah Dutra, with whom she worked at the law office, injected Larry with the horse tranquilizer drug xylazine at a Los Angeles hotel. McNabney, 52, was last seen alive being pushed in a wheelchair by Sims at a Los Angeles horse show September 10. A day later, authorities said, Elisa (or Sims) started clearing out his office and sold his $110,000 horse trailer and truck. According to her later confession, Elisa drove to Yosemite National Park to bury Larry, but he was still alive and she returned with the unconscious Larry McNabney in the back seat to Sacramento.[6] After his death the next day, September 12, from receiving the initial tranquilizer injection along with numerous later doses of other tranquilizer injections and mouth drops, it was estimated by the forensic examiners that Elisa and Sarah presumably had kept McNabney's body in the refrigerator in the McNabney garage for months.[1] His body was later moved to the nearby winery near where it was finally discovered by San Joaquin County Sheriffs Office detectives in a shallow ditch near Linden, California, on February 5, 2002. By that time however, Elisa had liquidated the couple's assets, totaling more than $500,000, and disappeared.[1]


After the discovery of Larry's body, Elisa was the subject of a nationwide manhunt. She was going by the alias Shane Ivaroni and was hiding out in Destin, Florida.[5] On March 20, 2002, Elisa was staying at her daughter Haylei's friend's house in Fort Walton Beach when she turned herself in.[5]


She was booked into the Hernando County Jail and was to be extradited to California. While awaiting extradition, Elisa gave a full confession to law enforcement while in custody at the Okaloosa County, Florida, Sheriff's Department.[6][7] One week later, on Easter Sunday 2002, Elisa hanged herself in her jail cell.

Trial of Sarah Dutra[edit]

Sarah Dutra went on trial for the murder of Larry McNabney in 2003. She faced life imprisonment without parole if convicted of first-degree murder, but she was instead found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and being an accessory to murder.[8] She was sentenced to the maximum of 11 years, 8 months in prison.[9][4]


In Elisa McNabney's suicide note, she asked her lawyer to sue the Hernando County Jail for not preventing her suicide. She also asked that her children receive any funds raised from the lawsuit. "This is all I can give to my children... My actions now will allow them to move into the future without this heavy burden. They won't have to watch my trial on Court TV. It should all die with me," she wrote in the note. She also claims that she was not checked regularly in her cell, but an investigation has since disputed the charge.[10]

Sarah Dutra was released from the Central California Women's Facility on August 26, 2011, after serving eighty-five percent of her eleven-year sentence.[4][11][12]

This case was the basis for the made-for-TV movie Lies My Mother Told Me which aired on Lifetime in 2005.[13] The film starred Joely Richardson as Elisa, Kailin See as Sarah, and Hayden Panettiere as Haylei. The case was featured on the television programs Dateline,[14] Evil Stepmothers,[15] Deadly Wives,[16] and Snapped.[17] The case is also the basis for the true-crime novel, Marked for Death by Brian J. Karem.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e Gonzales, Neil; Hood, Jeff (February 5, 2002). "Lawyer's body likely refrigerated for months". Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  2. ^ "Dutra Sentenced In McNabney Murder". April 21, 2003. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  3. ^ BAILEY, ERIC (2 April 2002). "Suspect's Suicide Is Latest Twist in Bizarre Murder". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Johnson, C. (August 26, 2011). "Sarah Dutra, convicted of poisoning boss, released from prison". Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Jones, Jamie (May 19, 2002). "The Chameleon comes home". St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Florida. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Frith, Stefanie (March 22, 2002). "Lawyer allegedly killed by wife who hid criminal past". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  7. ^ Herron Zamora, Jim (25 March 2002). "Wife's bizarre confession in poisoning / Secretary also charged in slaying of lawyer". SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Dutra receives maximum sentence".
  9. ^ "Dutra Sentenced in McNabney Murder". KCR3. 21 April 2003. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  10. ^ "Stupid lawsuits by prisoners", rantnroll.com, Harris Creative Group, retrieved September 22, 2014
  11. ^ Smith, Scott (2 August 2011). "Prison time for Dutra almost over". recordnet.com. STOCKTON, CA: GateHouse Media LLC. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  12. ^ Bonnett, Jennifer (26 August 2011). "Convicted murderer Sarah Dutra released from prison". Associated Press contribution. Lodi News-Sentinel. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Lies My Mother Told Me". Lifetime Movie Network. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  14. ^ "Poison". NBC News - Dateline. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Laren Sims' tranquilizer murder of husband Larry McNabney features on Evil Stepmothers". IMDb. Investigation Discovery. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  16. ^ Tindall, John (18 March 2013). ""Deadly Wives" Marlboro Man Murder". IMDb. Lifetime. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Snapped: Elisa McNabney". IMDb. Retrieved September 20, 2015.
  18. ^ Karem, Brian J. (24 May 2005). Marked for Death. ISBN 9780060524715. Retrieved September 20, 2015.