One frigid morning in February 2018, Larry Isenberg and his wife, Lori, woke up before dawn to watch the sunrise from their boat on the picturesque Lake Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho.
But as the couple guided their boat along Sun Up Bay, their motor stalled, prompting Larry Isenberg to give it a look. Then, the unthinkable happened: the longtime forester fell overboard—just out of reach of his horrified wife.
At least that was the story Lori Isenberg told authorities as she explained why her husband’s body was floating somewhere in the vast lake stretching south for 25 miles.
“I cannot describe the pain I feel,” Isenburg wrote in an email to friends obtained by The Spokesman-Review after the incident, explaining that she tried to grab for her husband but tripped on the heater and hit her head. “It is like half of me is gone.”
For two years, the drowning was believed to be the result of a tragic accident—but Idaho authorities now believe that his wife, a convicted embezzler, murdered Larry Isenberg, who was discovered in the lake with a lethal amount of Benadryl in his system.
“As far as we all knew, they had a great marriage,” Dean Isenberg, her step-son, told KHQ on Tuesday. “It was something you could model your own relationship off of. It seemed like everything was perfect. Dad was happy. No one knew what was going on behind the scenes.”
Isenburg, 66, was arrested Monday on a first-degree murder charge for allegedly planning her husband’s February 2018 death at the popular vacation spot near Worley, Idaho, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office told The Daily Beast. While the details of the slaying remain unknown, the 66-year-old is facing special charges tied to murders that may involve poison.
“I suspected, I didn’t want to believe it, but I definitely suspected,” the stepson said.
The murder charges come over a year after Isenberg pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud in January 2019 for embezzling money from her former employer after going on the run for two months. She was sentenced to five years in federal prison and is currently being held on a $2 million bond at Kootenai County Jail, according to online jail records.
On Feb. 13, 2018, Isenburg told police the pair had gotten up early to see the sunrise at Sun Up Bay, bringing along a space heater to keep warm. At some point, her husband of 14 years fell overboard while trying to check the motor that had stalled.
Believing her husband “possibly had a medical episode before falling into the water,” Isenburg said she waited two hours to call authorities because she didn’t want to leave the area where her husband had drowned—and had left her phone at home, according to a search warrant filed in Spokane Superior Court.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner, however, concluded at the time the 68-year-old showed no “visible” signs of stroke or evidence of drowning, a spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
Even more ominously, the Kootenai County Coroner also found that Larry Isenberg had lethal levels of diphenhydramine—an antihistamine found in Benadryl—in his system when he died.
As authorities were still desperately searching the lake’s bottom for her husband, Isenberg was charged on Feb. 26 with 40 counts of forgery and a charge of grand theft for embezzling half-a-million dollars over an 18 months span from her former employer, the nonprofit North Idaho Housing Coalition (NIHC).
Three days after her arrest, Larry Isenberg was found in Lake Coeur d’Alene. But by that point Lori Isenberg had already fled town, missing her first arraignment on the forgery and grand theft charges, which prompted a $500,000 warrant for her arrest.
“The news came out with the embezzlement case on the exact same day,” Dean Isenberg said. “It was too coincidental for me. If it wouldn’t have come out the way it did, we would have just thought [my dad’s death] was a horrible accident.”
The former NIHC executive director was on the run for two months before she eventually turned herself in to police in July 2018. Months later, four of her daughters pleaded guilty to taking money that their mom had embezzled.
A search warrant for July 2018 also states that about a month before her husband died, handwritten changes were made to his will that left almost all of his estate to Lori’s six children—only leaving a small portion to Larry’s two adult children from another marriage.
Despite his stepmother’s checkered past, Dean Isenberg said his family is completely shocked by the allegations against Lori.
“This blindsided us,” he said. “My dad was my world.”