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An Idaho man is revisiting some of the most painful moments of his life in hopes no one else will experience a similar tragedy.
Vernon Jensen is reflecting on the true-crime case that forever changed his life for the Investigation Discovery (ID) docuseries “Evil Lives Here,” which explores how people across the country have lived alongside sociopathic friends and family members who go on to commit heinous crimes. It features sit-down interviews with loved ones, victims, investigators and others closely connected to the cases.
“It’s been 23 years since everything happened,” Jensen told Fox News Digital. “I truthfully didn’t know if I could revisit this or not. But I wanted to share my side of the story. Things have been said over the years – different things. So I just wanted people to finally understand what happened and how things went down.”
Jensen was a 20-year-old studying to become a respiratory therapist when a registered nurse at the hospital where he worked struck up a friendship with him. At the time, Jensen was separated from his wife. After sharing long shifts with Vicki, a divorced mom to a four-year-old son, Jensen decided to take the seemingly friendly employee on a few casual dates.
“I liked Vicki,” the 51-year-old recalled. “She was funny. She seemed extremely friendly. I was attracted to her at the time. When she knew I was separated from my wife, she handed me a note asking if I wanted to meet up for drinks and talk. We hung out. But she became very possessive right off the bat. It was very clear she wanted something much more.”
Jensen admitted that he didn’t consider the relationship to be serious. He was stunned when, after spending a long weekend with friends, Vicki managed to call his home and speak to his mother. She later confessed to calling all the Jensens in the phone book until she reached the right house. Soon after, she declared herself to be Jensen’s girlfriend.
Not knowing how to handle the situation, Jensen immersed himself in his work. He landed a full-time position in Twin Falls, nearly two hours away from Boise. He said Vicki announced she would go with him. And once the divorce from his first marriage was finalized in 1991, Vicki announced the pair would get married – and they did.
After the pair said “I do,” Jensen claimed Vicki became verbally and physically abusive toward him.
“The one thing that truly made me realize there was something wrong with her was when she brought insulin home to try to kill my first wife, my kids’ mother, because she had raised my child support a couple of years after she found out I’d gotten a different job,” Jensen claimed. “She talked about it and would say, ‘I’m gonna kill that witch.’ I just thought it was talk. No one in their right mind would commit such a heinous act. But then one day, I saw the insulin. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ She said, ‘I’m gonna go take care of it.’ That’s when I blew up. I grabbed the insulin and the syringes. I drove off and threw them in the Dumpster somewhere.”
“I tried to convince myself that she was just overreacting,” he continued. “I thought I could control this, I could handle this. I told her if she tried this again, I would call the police, and I wasn’t screwing around here. I thought about going to the police anyway, but I said to myself, ‘What could they really do?’ At that point, she hadn’t committed a crime. She just made threats.
“And when she brought home the stuff to do it, I threw it out. I felt stuck. But I truly believed that I could deal with this. And, to be honest, I was always afraid of retaliation from her. She was pretty vicious when she felt I crossed her. She could be very physically and verbally abusive to me. She would punch me, hit me, throw things at me. But I also was raised not to ever hit a woman. And I refused to cross that line because there was no turning back. And I didn’t want to turn back on my faith in Christ.”
Jensen claimed that it didn’t take long for Vicki’s attacks to worsen behind closed doors. While he didn’t go to the police, he eventually moved out and began working extra shifts to help pay for a divorce attorney. It was during that time he began dating Aleta Diane Ray, who worked as a nurse’s aide.
“I remember how incredibly kind and caring she was to her patients,” said Jensen. “She never got short with anyone or impatient, even if someone was being really ugly towards her. She always had a smile on her face. I fell in love with her smile. She had a very soothing voice. She put others before herself. It was such a breath of fresh air. I just felt such a natural connection. And as I got to know her, it felt as though we were kindred spirits. She was just the kindest, sweetest person I’ve ever met. I felt hopeful.”
As the relationship between Ray and Jensen blossomed, they moved into an apartment together in 1999 with Ray’s daughter. It didn’t take long for Vicki to find out. Jensen claimed that when Vicki began stalking the pair, he and Ray had made plans to move out and start anew in a different state.
“We started seeing Vicki follow us around,” Jensen said as he choked back tears. “I was going to send Diane somewhere 200 miles away so she could feel safe. I guess I didn’t act fast enough.”
Jensen and Ray’s plans together never came to fruition.
On the morning of September 9, 1999, Vicki and two disguised accomplices fooled Ray into letting them into her home after Jensen went to work. It was there when Vicki gave the 33-year-old, with a gun held to her head, a lethal injection of methamphetamine and insulin. According to prosecutors, Vicki ignored Ray’s pleas for mercy and then watched her suffer for nearly an hour. The crime was witnessed by Ray’s 3-year-old daughter, who was left alone with her dying mother.
Vicki had recruited her niece, then 14-year-old Autumn Pauls, and the teen’s ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Matthew W. Pearson, to help in the killing, according to reports.
“I felt an incredible amount of guilt,” Jensen tearfully recalled. “The way I dealt with it was with alcohol. I took a very self-destructive path. I should have known. And we were making plans. I was looking for work anywhere out of state just to get away from the situation. I was angry. I knew Vicki had something to do with it. It sickened me. I felt such rage that I probably could have broken my oath with God. I think I would have strangled her. I’m thankful for my faith because that anger could have destroyed me.”
It took an investigation lasting several months before Vicki was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
“I just remember watching clips of the interrogation. I felt disgusted,” said Jensen. “Vicki came across like she was the smartest person in the room, that she could get away with anything. It even looked like she was flirting with the guy who was trying to put her in handcuffs. Just pure arrogance. But that’s who she was – evil.”
Vicki, then 39, pleaded guilty to the 1999 slaying of Ray, a case prosecutors and judges have called one of the most horrific murders in Twin Falls County. She was sentenced to life in prison. At the sentencing, the judge called Vicki the evil mastermind of a perverse and horrendous crime. Pauls and Pearson were tried as adults. Vicki and Jensen’s divorce was finalized in 2001.
With the help of the documentary, Jensen reconnected with Jade Scotton, Ray’s daughter. Jensen said he considers her family, and they speak frequently.
“I wanted her to know the story,” he said. “And it felt wonderful to tell her about her mother and who she really was. Diane was a good person, and she deserved to know that. She will now always have someone in her corner.”
Jensen remarried in 2017. He noted that his church helped him cope with the tragedy over the years. Despite speaking out, Jensen admitted that he likely won’t watch the documentary. The memories are just too painful.
“It’s been 23 years, but it’s still extremely difficult to think about,” he said. “I’m grateful that I’ve spoken out because it has allowed me to think of Diane and remember who she was. Those feelings have always been genuine for her. The love will always be there. I just hope those in similar situations will have the courage to walk away and get help before it’s too late.”
‘Evil Lives Here’ airs Sunday, April 10th at 9 p.m. on ID. The Associated Press contributed to this report.