Issues stemming from a divorce case and unpaid attorney fees resulted in the murder of a Nebraska family lawyer by a former client. 

Nebraska divorce attorney Todd V. Elsbernd, 52, was fatally shot by a high-powered rifle outside his law office on November 13, 2013, by former client Michael Petersen, 58. The body of Petersen’s former wife was discovered on November 14, 2013. The Buffalo County’s attorney intends to charge Michael Petersen with first-degree murder in both deaths.

Elsbernd had represented defendant Michael Petersen, 58, in a 2005 family law case against his former wife, Nancy Peterson, 58. The two men continued to dispute over unpaid lawyer fees, and in 2009 Petersen apparently unsuccessfully tried to sue Elsbernd for malpractice, seeking over $57,000 in attorney fees.

A partner in the law firm of Bradley, Elsbernd, Andersen, Kneale & Jankovitz, Elsbernd had just celebrated his 25th anniversary of being a member of the Nebraska State Bar Association just previous to his death. “He was a dear friend and well-respected lawyer. He fought hard for his clients and was respected within the legal community for competence and honesty.”