La Habra Woman Mistaken as Intruder Is Killed by Husband

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A La Habra woman was shot to death Thursday night by her estranged husband, who was released from jail Friday while detectives investigate his claim that he had thought she was an intruder.

Donald Giesseman, 57, a former reserve deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, initially was arrested Thursday night for the death of Helen Marie Giesseman, 53, and held without bail. He was released from custody because homicide detectives concluded there was insufficient evidence that he had committed a crime, sheriff’s spokesman Ron Spear said.

“He claimed he was asleep in his bedroom and was awakened (at about 8:30 p.m.) by what he thought was an intruder,” Spear said. Giesseman told investigators he armed himself with a handgun and fired once, fatally wounding his wife in the upper body, Spear said.


Giesseman called paramedics when he realized his mistake. His wife died at the scene.

“Sheriff’s homicide detectives are continuing their investigation of the case and are waiting for the evaluation of further evidence,” Spear said. “The facts of the case have been given to the district attorney’s office for their consideration.”

He said he knew nothing about Giesseman other than that he had served as a reserve deputy for the department from 1972 to 1983.