‘I Am A Killer’ Season 4: Episode 2, Explained: Why Did Jema Donahue Kill Her Husband?

Previously on “I Am A Killer” Season 4, we saw the story of Anthony. It was a story where he had a choice not to kill someone innocent. However, Jema’s story is different. Jema Donahue does not have a criminal background or any involvement with the mafia or drug world. On the surface, Jema looks like a normal girl. Her story makes you feel sad and helpless. Jema shot her husband Javon, and the reason why she did it does not come to us as a surprise. Let’s dig into her story more.

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Spoilers Ahead


What Is The Episode About?

Episode 2 of “I Am A Killer” Season 4 starts with Jema, who shares her story with the world. What we think Netflix is doing here is giving a voice to the people who are in prison for an act of self-defense. Jema starts by telling the audience that she grew up in Berlin, Germany before her family shifted to the U.S. Her father was in the military, so she moved around every five years. When you grow up in a military background, the stereotype is that you have strict house rules. This is somewhat true; we have seen children grow up in a military household without having friends that stay for a long time. Moving from one place to another often, surely affects the confidence a child gains over the years. The teenage phase for any child is difficult; you go through puberty and a confusing range of emotions. If on top of that, you face bullying, you feel like it is the end of the world. You get cranky and start despising the world. Something of that sort happened to Jema, and she blamed her mother for it. Episode 2 of “I Am A Killer” Season 4 also focuses on her side of the story, where she describes why she killed her husband.

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What Happened To Jema When She Was Young?

Well, Jema was sexually assaulted when she was 13. Upon informing her mother of this, Jema asked her not to contact the police. Jema’s mother contacted the police anyway but got a lukewarm response from them. According to the police, they could not locate the criminal. At that point, being protective, Jema’s mother did everything she could do.

Jema Donahue tried taking matters into her own hands, but the police disappointed her again. When she drove up to the assaulter’s house, she decided to run the car over him and kill him. Perhaps anger took over her. But she was asked not to press charges if she wanted no charges brought against her. Stories like this make one wonder how the authorities work. Here, we see a child getting sexually assaulted and her mother not getting justice for her daughter; meanwhile, the police dared to press charges against Jema’s mother when she tried to fight for her own daughter. Any parent would get angry if their child was abused in any way. If the police are of no help, whom shall we go to? 

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Episode 2 of “I Am A Killer” Season 4 does highlight the lack of work the authorities are to blame for and why people lose faith in the police. Do you think one wonders what will happen to them if they report a problem to the police and they don’t help? Often, these questions haunt people who are assaulted, especially women. The statistics are there to see: the number of women who are assaulted and go to the police is less than the number of women who bear the pain and keep quiet. Some women think it is better to get over the pain on their own or seek therapy instead of going to the police, following legal procedures, and living the nightmare all over again. Describing assault must be so hard for the victims, and one cannot blame them if they decide not to go to the police. It is totally up to the victim, and the decision should always be theirs.

In the case of Jema, she was young and naive; she wanted to fit in with society when she was finally admitted to public school. However, when the news of her assault spread, she was bullied at school and made fun of. This is a horrible situation to be in. We don’t understand how one can make fun of a poor child who has been abused. Nevertheless, Jema faced a lot of bullying, and she kept blaming her mother for not allowing her to make friends. Jema said whenever she had friends; her mother would do a background check on them. We can somewhat understand why her mother became so protective, but not letting a child live a normal life only makes them worse. One might think what they are doing is right and for the betterment of their child, but when the child wants to forget what has happened to them, one needs to let them be. One cannot keep their child in a protective bubble their whole life. Jema’s mother now regrets being so strict. She said a lot of factors affected her relationship with Jema, and she is now working toward mending their relationship. 

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Who Was Jema Married To, And Why Did She Kill Him?

Jema was single at the time and had two children when she met Javon. He had just been released from prison. The green flag about Javon for her was only the fact that he used to stay at home with her children while she used to be in college or work. One might wonder who would stay in a relationship with someone abusive, but, according to Jema, Javon loved her. The highs in their relationship were fewer than the lows. Javon would not let Jema leave him and said the only way she would leave was if he killed her. Jema’s mother had her suspicions about Javon and even confronted him about them. Javon neither confirmed nor denied the fact that he used to hit Jema. Jema still stayed in the relationship, maybe because of the fear he instilled in her. He even convinced her to get married, and both of them continued their relationship for five years. Finally, after five years, Jema decided to leave Javon. With the help of her mother, Jema secured a restraining order against Javon, which protected her for a while. However, things turned ugly.

One day, when Jema was alone at her place, Javon broke the restraining order and visited her. According to Jema, he pulled her hair and physically abused her. He later went downstairs and called out her name. She followed the voice, and the next thing she saw was a gun pointing at her. When Javon pulled the trigger, the gun was thankfully jammed and did not work. He hit Jema with the gun and started abusing her again. In a fit of rage and fear, Jema took the gun from Javon and shot him four times. One would say it was self-defense and that if Javon hadn’t been shot, he would have killed Jema. Well, there was one mistake that she committed, according to us. Instead of going to the cops and confessing, she decided to cover up his death with lies. To make matters worse, her mother also joined in the deceit and did not go to the cops. They asked a friend to bury the body in an area where drugs are sold. The farm where they buried the body was secluded; however, after seven days, the police got a tip from someone who reported that Javon had been shot by his wife and buried. Soon, Jema was held in custody along with her mother. Because her mother was an accomplice, she received a five-year suspended sentence. Also, she spent 30 days in prison. 

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As for Jema, she faced ten years in prison for manslaughter. During her trial, she initially pleaded not guilty and argued that she was a victim of battered spouse syndrome. The doctor who was appointed to look into Jema’s case said she meets all the criteria one needs to meet in the case of battered spouse syndrome. Also, the doctor was surprised at how Jema made it out alive. She also pointed out Jema’s mother’s behavior and how that was one of the factors that led Jema to be under-confident growing up. 

Even though she excelled in school, she was not allowed to make friends. It surely affects the lifestyle of a young woman. Maybe she was vulnerable and always kept in a bubble because she decided not to share the abuse, she was going through with anyone. Jema’s mother did notice scars on her and had her suspicions, but what did she do to help her daughter? When the deed was done, she said she would take the blame instead, but it makes you wonder why she didn’t take the right step forward when it was needed. Who can we blame in this situation? Perhaps family cannot help after a point. Jema’s mother did try her best to warn Jema and Javon, but at the end of the day, it was Jema’s relationship. The jury did not buy her self-defense story, and Jema Donahue was found guilty. But when you hear her story, you feel bad for her. Jema is a survivor of domestic abuse. Jema should have gone to the police, and her sentence would have been less. Perhaps her defense and arguments would have been valid if she had taken the right steps. 

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See more: ‘I Am A Killer’ Season 4: Episode 1, Explained: What Is The Story Of Inmate Anthony Standifer?


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Tarushi Patali
Tarushi Patali
Tarushi is an English Literature graduate, who is currently doing master's in mass communication from Mumbai. She loves making lists and is an avid reader. Also, she likes judging people by their movie taste. In her leisure time you would find her digging random conspiracy pages on Reddit!

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