ON THE HILLTOP: Jeanmarie (third from right) went to SMU. photography courtesy of SMU Rotunda Yearbook

What Drove Jeanmarie Geis to Murder?

She was the perfect North Dallas wife. Then she killed her children and herself.

Fast forward 10 years to 2008. Jeanmarie was the mother of two children, Matthew, 8, and Sydney, 4, whom the couple adopted. It was December and the Geis Group was set to close out a financial year in which they earned only about $100,000, according to a co-worker at the Geis Group’s broker, Virginia Cook, Realtors.

Frank and Jeanmarie had purchased their 45-year-old Blairview Drive home in May 2003 for $429,000 and had taken out a $271,000 mortgage. Over the next five years, they refinanced, took out equity and combined loans, bringing the home loan balance to $335,000. On Valentine’s Day 2008, they refinanced once again, taking out $82,000 in cash before closing costs, leaving the home with a new mortgage balance of $417,000, the conforming loan limit. The home was last appraised for tax purposes at $476,320 by the Dallas Central Appraisal District.

They weren’t upside down on the loan yet, but Hansen says the couple was dealing with a lot of credit card debt when he got a call in October from an upset Jeanmarie. “She had called me that night just pissed, not crying, not sad, just pissed that Frank had walked in about 8:30 that night apparently drinking,” Hansen says. “He told her that they were broke, that he had maxed out all their credit cards, that they were like $80,000 in debt or something. That’s when he told her that, you know, ‘We need to get a divorce.’ ”

Police who’ve examined the Geises’ financial records acknowledge that the couple was dealing with debt but decline to say how much. Hansen says there were signs that the Geises’ business was suffering.

“In the two years that I’ve known her, she seemed to be working less and less,” he says. “If I was willing to have lunch with her every day, she would have lunch with me every day. Once our relationship became close, a third of our conversations were about how miserable her relationship with Frank was.”

Around this time, Jeanmarie began making up the stories. On December 6, she told police that two men in ski masks pulled up next to her car as she was preparing to leave the Virginia Cook, Realtors office near Northwest Highway and the Dallas North Tollway. She said one of the masked men pointed a gun at her and demanded she hand over her laptop and $10,000 diamond wedding ring.

Two days later, I interviewed her for a story about the robbery for Preston Hollow People. Over the phone, she didn’t sound upset. She said she didn’t want to “freak out” her children. “I just don’t want my name in the paper and a story about it,” she said. “I just really don’t. It was a thing without incident. They took a few items from me. I gave it to them. But that was the extent of it.”

One week later, she reported the supposed home invasion and assault. Then, the very next day, on December 14, she called 911 at 10:01 a.m., saying she’d been attacked again near her mother’s house on Woodland Drive. She said the assailant was one of the men behind both the previous crimes. She told the 911 operator she believed the men were after revenge because of her father’s involvement in the Darlie Routier case.

She said a man with a Southern drawl forced her into a car at gunpoint while she was still in the driveway of her mother’s home. She said the man asked her if she liked “what your husband looked like yesterday.” He told her, “You’re going to be mine. This is for what your sweet daddy did to my family.”

Jeanmarie said she was able to distract him and escape from the car, running toward an alley. The man tackled her and put his gun to her head, but she said he was scared off by the sound of a garage door opening. She made the 911 call from the home with the open garage door.

In a second call made to 911 at 10:11 a.m. from the home where Jeanmarie sought shelter, a man describes what he thinks is her attacker, driving a gold Lexus LS430: “He’s driving. He pulled into a house on Woodland Drive at approximately— My buddy’s address is [expunged] and he was like two houses up from that. Somebody was on the phone with 911 just a minute ago, and I said I’m going outside to see if I can find this person because he had just left. … He’s wearing a gray shirt. A gray sweatshirt to match the description.  … He’s white. It looks like he has a black eye on his right eye. Bags under his eyes. Curly brown hair. From his stature sitting in the car, I would say he was a tall gentleman.”

Police think the suspect being described in the 911 audio is Frank. As for what happened, they have no explanation other than they “question the validity” of all the crimes Jeanmarie reported.

“We are still trying to look into the validity of all the offenses that she reported,” says Sgt. Beaudreault. “Just the way the evidence was and her behavior once she was interviewed. There are a lot of issues that just don’t add up. The totality of the whole incidents that she was reporting just isn’t making a whole lot of sense.”

===“We are still trying to look into the validity of all the offenses that she reported…There are a lot of issues that just don’t add up. –Sgt. Beaudreault!==

Five days later, at 9:09 a.m. on December 19, Frank’s sister calls 911 from Baylor Medical Hospital of Dallas, where she has taken him to have his stitches removed.

“Yes, we feel as though there has been a break-in or a, um, something has happened at a residence on Blairview,” she says. “They have been broken into and beaten up last Saturday. The wife is home with two children and she’s not answering the front door and she’s not answering her, her, um— She’s not answering her cell phone.”

Six minutes later, another call comes to 911, this one from a family friend who has gone to the house to check on Jeanmarie.

“I have a major emergency at, um, on Blairview,” the woman says. “Um, two kids are, um, down. The mother is naked. She’s been stalked for the last week and a half. … The kids are laying there in blood. She is laying there naked.”

The medical examiner goes to work that day and notes: Jeanmarie is 5-foot-6, 123 pounds. French-manicured nails. Breast implants. No scars on her arms. No needle tracks. There are bruises on her legs. On her mouth are radial cuts at the corner of the right edge of her lips. There is another in the left corner of her lip. Her right and left upper front teeth are chipped. The back of her palate is fractured. Her tongue has gunshot defect in the back and is surrounded by soot. Jeanmarie’s top was partially removed, and there is soot on her chest but no signs of a sexual assault. The bullet severed the brain stem from the spinal cord. The medical examiner says all the evidence is consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say that Jeanmarie fell on the gun she used.

Her children were still in their pajamas. Matthew was home sick from school. He still had traces of a cough suppressant in his system. The medical examiner says the gun was placed against the back of their heads.

Yellow crime scene tape bounces in the wind, stretched across a normally quiet street in Northeast Dallas. Onlookers stand around, bewildered. Neighbors look grief-stricken. They hold each other for comfort.

“This is a retaliation murder. It’s against actually Mark Tolle,” says William Clark, who knew the judge for more than 40 years. “It’s a retaliation against someone who has been convicted in Mark Tolle’s court.”

Lt. Craig Miller, head of the Dallas Police Department’s homicide unit, steps up to a makeshift microphone and begins to address the TV cameras and reporters. His chooses his words carefully as he describes what took place this morning.

“There have been some calls involving the deceased female in this case that have been going on over the last couple of weeks,” Lt. Miller says. “We are working with people to try and determine, to make the connection exactly, the timeline of what took place that possibly could have led us to where we are today.”

Four months later, in April, police still don’t know how things got to that point, what drove Jeanmarie to such a desperate act. Why did she kill herself? Why did she kill her children?

“I think there was probably a lot more to it in her mind other than just the financial debt,” says Sgt. Beaudreault. “It just doesn’t make sense why you would kill yourself and your kids over a financial debt when you know your mother or relatives or people in the family probably have the wherewithal to bail you out of this thing.”

The possibility of marital strife hasn’t been ruled out by police, but they lack the type of hard evidence that would give them an indication one way or the other. “Mr. Geis had indicated that there wasn’t [marital strife], that everything was fine,” Beaudreault says. “But you know obviously he’s not being forthright with us.”

Police say their job is almost done. They’ve questioned everyone involved. With the medical examiner concluding that it was a murder-suicide, the case is all but closed. They sent off several items from the Geis home for DNA testing, including the hammer they believe was used to beat Frank. If they find someone else’s DNA on it, then there might be two dangerous men on the loose. But they don’t expect to find anyone’s DNA but Jeanmarie’s and Frank’s.

“What pushes somebody to that particular point?” Beaudreault wonders. “What is it so pressing on you that you think you need to do something so obviously horrible? That’s the question we are trying to resolve in our minds as detectives and investigators. We really can’t find that. We don’t know what it is. You know, we can’t get inside her head.”

Now that Jeanmarie has been laid to rest, it’s possible we’ll never know what really happened. Or it’s possible that someone else is now walking around, burdened by a new secret of their own.

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