Prosecutor: Wife hired hit man to kill cancer-stricken husband
“Sandra Jessee and her son conspired to kill Jack Jessee, prosecutor says, because she was concerned about cost of care.”
SANTA ANA A woman aided by her son schemed to kill her ill husband because she worried that cancer treatment costs were eating up their retirement savings, a prosecutor said today.
Sandra Jessee, 58, formerly of Placentia, and her son, Thomas Dayton Aehlert, 39, of Gold Canyon, Ariz., are each charged with murder for financial gain and conspiracy in the Aug. 13, 1998, stabbing death of Jack Jessee Sandra Jessee’s third husband who had colon cancer.
“She made the statement I can’t take it anymore,” Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray said during closing arguments. “It would have been a lot easier for Sandra Jessee if he didn’t have the surgery and just died. That’s her state of mind.”
She and Aehlert are accused of hiring Brett Schrauben to kill Jack Jessee for $50,000, and giving him $5,000 of it in a store parking lot in Placentia on June 24, 1998.
Schrauben, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for Jack Jessee’s death, testified about the solicitation, how he was paid for the crime and detailed the killing, Murray said.
“The murder was supposed to look like burglary,” Murray said of Schrauben’s testimony. “(He gave) details no one would know unless involved in crime.”
Phone records made the day after the crime — connect Schrauben to Sandra Jessee, he added.
“How does a killer pick that house on a cul-de-sac kill a 56 year old man and make darn sure he was dead?”” the prosecutor later continued.
The slaying happened the night of Aug. 13th 1998. Jack Jessee was weak, Murray said, having just recovered from surgery.
Sandra Jessee then left her husband home alone and went out for two to three hours to have her hair and nails done, Murray said.
While she was gone, Schrauben and a friend, Thomas Garrick, then went to the house, prosecutors said. Garrick is accused of entering the home and stabbing Jack Jessee several times, killing him.
Schrauben then drove Garrick away from the scene, prosecutors said.
Sandra Jessee profited about $650,000 from her husband’s murder by selling their house and obtaining his 401(k) death benefits and insurance, they add.
“He had a future until it was taken away, and it was taken away for one of vilest reasons imaginable,” Murray said of the victim. “Greed. Greed. Pure, unadulterated greed.”
Jessee’s son, Aehlert, later told a friend details about the killing, Murray said, including how he heard Jack Jessee called out for his wife’s name when he was attacked.
“Think of the irony of that. Jack Jessee is calling out for his wife, when his wife planned his murder,” Murray said.
The case was re-opened in 2005. The next year, Sandra Jessee and Schrauben were arrested, but charges against Jessee were dismissed by a judge for lack of evidence. Prosecutors dropped charges against Schrauben in February 2007, but continued investigating the case.
Prosecutors then presented evidence to an Orange County grand jury, which indicted Jessee and Aehlert for the murder. The mother and son were arrested the following month in Arizona.
Schrauben is scheduled to be sentenced on July 24. Garrick has not been charged.
Jessee and Aehlert face a possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Closing arguments continue today.
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