Missouri Woman Proclaimed Innocent After 43 Years for 1980 Murder, AG Moves to Delay Release

Missouri Woman Proclaimed Innocent After 43 Years for 1980 Murder, AG Moves to Delay Release

A 64-year-old Missouri woman with a history of mental illness has been proclaimed innocent by a judge for a murder she has spent more than four decades in prison for, and others now blame a former police officer.

Sandra Hemme’s innocence in the murder of Patricia Jeschke on November 12, 1980, in St. Joseph, Missouri, was deemed “clear and convincing” by a judge last week.

However, she remains in prison, and Missouri’s top prosecutor petitioned a judge on Tuesday to postpone her release.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey also stated that his office would petition the state appeals court to examine the judge’s decision, which stated that Hemmes must be released within 30 days or retried.

According to a petition for exoneration reviewed by Livingston County Circuit Judge Ryan Horsman, Hemmes’ lawyers argued that evidence in the 1980 slaying points to the guilt of Michael Holman, a now-deceased St. Joseph police officer who committed a series of crimes before and after 31-year-old Jeschke’s death and was directly linked to the homicide.

NBC News reviewed the 118-page petition, which was filed on Friday.

Horsman also decided that Hemme’s trial attorney was ineffective and that prosecutors failed to reveal information that could have proven her innocence.

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Hemme’s attorneys said she was “the longest-known wrongfully incarcerated woman in the United States,” and filed a motion for her immediate release.

Her attorneys claim she poses no threat, but the AG’s office stated in a motion filed Tuesday that Hemme had made statements about embracing violence and attacked a prison worker with a razor blade. Hemme pleaded guilty to the attack in 1996. On Tuesday, no one from the Buchanan County prosecutor’s office was available to comment on whether Hemme would be retried for Jeschke’s murder.

According to the petition, the sole evidence linking Hemme to the 1980 homicide were incriminating comments she made during police interviews while suffering from serious mental illness and under the influence of heavy drugs prescribed to treat her.

“This Court finds that the evidence as a whole establishes that Ms. Hemme’s statements inculpating herself are inconsistent, contradicted by physical evidence and accounts of reliable, independent witnesses and that Ms. Hemme’s impaired psychiatric condition when questioned substantially undermine the reliability of those statements as evidence of guilt,” the petitioner, Horsman, said. “… This Court further finds that no evidence whatsoever outside of Ms. Hemme’s unreliable statements connects her to the crime.” The Innocence Project, based in New York, took up Hemme’s case and stated that she had been wrongly detained for 43 years.

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“No witnesses could connect Ms. Hemme to the murder, the victim, or the crime scene. She had no reason to hurt Ms. Jeschke, and there was no proof that they had ever met. According to the statement, no physical or forensic evidence linked Ms. Hemme to the killing.

Hemme’s conviction was based on her “false and unreliable” admissions, which she made while being treated at a state psychiatric facility and “forcibly given medication designed to overpower her will,” according to the statement.

The Innocence Project pointed to Holman and accused St. Joseph police of concealing information implicating a coworker.

“Fellow police officer Michael Holman, who was found using the victim’s credit card the day after the murder; whose truck was seen parked near the victim’s home at the time she was killed; in whose closet the victim’s earrings were discovered; and who in the months before and after Ms. Jeschke’s murder, committed many other crimes against women,” The Innocence Project reported in a statement.

Police in St. Joseph did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The day after her murder, Jeschke’s concerned mother went through a window into her apartment and discovered her daughter’s body. Her hands were bound behind her back, and a pair of pantyhose was put around her throat. The petition stated that a knife was under her skull.

The gruesome homicide made the news. Hemme was not on the radar until nearly two weeks later, when she showed up at the home of a nurse who had previously treated her, wielding a knife and refusing to leave.

Police discovered her in a closet and returned her to St. Joseph’s Hospital, the latest in a series of hospitalizations that began when she began hearing voices at the age of 12.

She had been released from the hospital the day before Jeschke’s death was discovered, arriving at her parents’ house later that night after hitchhiking almost 100 miles.

Hemme was in seclusion and forcibly confined before being questioned by police. The petition states that she was “forcefully administered antipsychotic medications via injection for more than 48 hours while involuntarily held at the hospital.”

Hemme was so deeply drugged that she “could not hold her head up straight” when she was first questioned, according to the plea.

Hemme pleaded guilty in April 1981 in exchange for the death penalty being removed from the table as per NBCNews

The judge first rejected her guilty plea because she couldn’t provide enough information about what happened, stating, “I didn’t know I had done it until like three days later, you know when it came out in the paper and on the news.”

Following a pause, she supplied additional information, and her guilty plea was accepted. That plea was later dismissed on appeal. However, she was convicted again in 1985 following a one-day trial.

Before Hemme’s conviction, Holman, the police officer, was under investigation by his department. Holman was charged about a month after the killing with falsely reporting that his pickup had been stolen to receive an insurance payout. The identical truck was spotted near the crime scene, and the officer’s claim that he spent the night with a woman at a nearby motel could not be confirmed.

Holman attempted to use Jeschke’s credit card at a photography store in Kansas City, Missouri, on the day her body was discovered. The cop, who was eventually dismissed and died in 2015, claimed he discovered the card in a purse in a ditch.

During a search of Holman’s residence, officers discovered a pair of gold horseshoe-shaped earrings in a cupboard.

Jeschke’s father identified the earrings as a pair he purchased for his daughter. However, the four-day inquiry into Holman came to a sudden stop, and many of the data discovered were never disclosed to Hemme’s counsel, according to the petition.

According to the petition, jurors at Hemme’s trial only heard that Holman had Jeschke’s credit card and attempted to use it to purchase a camera.

“The State also withheld information of his significant criminal history, which included multiple home burglaries, dishonesty, and stalking convictions. Additional evidence proved that Holman was near Ms. Jeschke’s home the night she was murdered, and that his narrative for why he was in the area that evening was false, all of which the jury did not hear,” the court said. “This Court also finds the record shows the SJPD failed to seriously investigate Holman as a suspect.”

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