Woman has murder conviction overturned after 43 years in prison as it's revealed cop who died in 2015 was the likely killer

Monday, June 17, 2024
 - A woman imprisoned for more than four decades for murder in the US has been found innocent.

Sandra 'Sandy' Hemme, 63, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after the slaying of 31-year-old Patricia Jeschke in 1980, but will now be released or retried within the next 30 days.

A judge overturned the conviction after her attorneys revealed how the crime was likely committed by a now-discredited cop who died in 2015.

Hemme was cuffed after she made statements to other cops in St Joseph while sedated, incriminating herself in the process.

Cops, while doing this, exploited her mental illness, coercing her into making false statements while she was on meds meant to treat a psychotic break, Judge Ryan Horsman said, citing how the suspect was also threatened with the death penalty.

The only evidence linking Ms. Hemme to the crime was that of her own inconsistent, disproven statements, which were taken while she was in psychiatric crisis and physical pain,' he said in the order reversing the ruling.

In contrast, 'this court finds that the evidence directly ties [then-police officer Michael] Holman to this crime and murder scene', Horsman added - pointing to the compelling new evidence presented by Hemme's attorneys in February 2023. 

 He said prosecutors, at the time, failed to disclose such evidence  - which he said would have helped Hemme's defense most definitely. 

He added that her trial counsel fell 'below professional standards' as a result, paving the way for the injustice.

The cop in question died in 2015, after being fired from the St Joseph force for falsely reporting that his pickup truck had been stolen and collecting an insurance payout a month after Jeschke, a local library worker, was found stabbed to death. 

 It was the same truck his fellow officer spotted near the crime scene, leading them to hone in on the suspect.

The officer also tried to use Jeschke's credit card at a Kansas City camera store the same day her body was discovered, and went on to issue an alibi that he spent the night with a woman at a nearby motel in response.

This, however, could not be confirmed, though Hemme was still treated as the prime suspect.

Holman, on the other hand, said he found the card in a purse discarded in a ditch, spurring a raid of his home by fellow officers - during which they found a pair of gold horseshoe-shaped earrings, along with jewelry stolen from another woman during a burglary earlier that year.

 Afterwards, Jeschke's father came forward claiming he recognized the earrings as a pair he bought for his daughter, but the investigation into Holman still ended abruptly, four days later.

Many of these details, officials said Friday, were uncovered later and never given to Hemme's attorneys - enough to classify it as a miscarriage of justice more than 40 years after the case grabbed headlines.

It started on November 13, 1980, when Jeschke failed to show up for work, leading her mother to climb through the window of her locker apartment to discover he nude body surrounded by blood.

Her hands were tied behind her back with a telephone cord and a pair of pantyhose wrapped around her throat, with a freshly used knife left under her head.

A search ensued for the librarian's killers, with Hemme surfacing as a suspect within the next

two weeks. 

She had been discharged from a mental hospital the day before Jeschke's body was found, and showed up nearly two weeks later at the home of a nurse who once treated her, carrying a knife and refusing to leave.

Police, at that point, found her in a closet, returning her to St. Joseph's Hospital where she would soon become a suspect.

Citing the timing of these hospitalizations, cops began interrogating Hemme,  during which she was being plied with antipsychotic drugs.

Her attorneys pointed out this was the latest in a string of hospitalizations that began when Hemme started hearing voices at the age of 12, and saw cops note she seemed 'mentally confused' and not fully able to comprehend their questions at the time.

'Each time the police extracted a statement from Ms. Hemme it changed dramatically from the last, often incorporating explanations of facts the police had just recently uncovered,' her attorneys wrote.

Eventually, she claimed to have watched a man named Joseph Wabski kill Jeschke, after meeting Wabski when they stayed in the state hospital's detoxification unit at the same time.

He was quickly charged with capital murder, but prosecutors within days dropped the case upon learning he was at an alcohol treatment center in Topeka, Kansas, at the time. 

Upon learning this, Hemme cried and she was the lone killer - right around the time cops began looking into Holman.

He, however, made it off the hook and was merely fired, while prosecutors proceeded with their case against Hemme anyway.

While imprisoned awaiting trial, she wrote to her parents on Christmas Day 1980, 'Even though I'm innocent, they want to put someone away, so they can say the case is solved.' She said she might as well change her plea to guilty.

'Just let it end,' she added at the time. 'I'm tired.'

The following spring, she agreed to plead guilty to capital murder in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.


Her attorneys presented these oversights involving the case a year and a half ago, after which the Missouri Court of Appeals scheduled an evidentiary hearing on January 16, 2024.

The hearing was held over the course of three days. during which former detective Steven Fueston stated he stopped one of the police interviews of Hemme because 'she didn't seem totally coherent'

Horshman, in turn, delivered his ruling Friday, chiding the department while doing so. 

Larry Harman, a local judge who helped Hemme get her initial guilty plea thrown out e, said in the petition how he believed she was innocent.

'The system,' he said, 'failed her at every opportunity.'


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