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After 43 years in Prison, Judge Overturns Missouri Woman's Life Sentence and Points Fingers at Cop

The investigators arrested then-20-year-old Sandra Hemme for murder while she was a psychiatric patient at St. Joseph's State Hospital.
Representative Cover Image Source: Photo by Pexels | RDNE Stock project
Representative Cover Image Source: Photo by Pexels | RDNE Stock project

A woman may be exonerated four decades after she reportedly was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Sandra Hemme has been incarcerated for the last 43 years after receiving a capital murder conviction in connection with the death of Patricia Jeschke in Missouri, People reported.

Circuit Court Judge Ryan W. Horsman overturned the conviction on June 14, 2024, stating that Hemme was “the victim of a manifest injustice.”

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project

Jeschke, a library worker, was found murdered in her apartment in 1980, according to People. The victim was reportedly found naked on the floor, with strangulation and stab marks covering her body.

Investigators arrested the then-20-year-old Hemme in connection with the crime. At that time, she was a psychiatric patient at St. Joseph's State Hospital, where she was allegedly receiving treatment for auditory hallucinations, derealization, and drug misuse.

Detectives allegedly got a confession from Hemme and a jury convicted after a one-day trial five years later.

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Judge Horsman has now pointed out multiple failures in the investigation conducted at the time of the murder and pointed out flaws in arguments presented by the prosecution during the subsequent trial.

“It would be difficult to imagine that the State could prove Ms. Hemme’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the judge wrote in his decision. After analyzing the details of the case, he found Hemme's “innocence to be clear and convincing.”


Investigators also found that Hemme did not have any motive to kill Jeschke, nor did any witnesses ever come forward to locate Hemme at the crime scene, the court order stated.

Forensic analysis of the scene did not point toward Hemme, the court order additionally noted. Judge called Hemme's confession "inconsistent" and "disproven."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by RDNE Stock project

The judge noted that a St. Joseph police officer, Michael Holman, allegedly had “substantial and objective” evidence connecting him with the case. Holman was allegedly found with Jeschke’s distinctive wishbone earrings and her credit card, according to reports.

The day Jeschke's body was found, Holman allegedly attempted a $630.43 charge for photography equipment on the victim's credit card, and the judge also mentioned that hair strands found on the scene turned out to be "consistent" with Holman's.

The judge added that the jury was not provided all the information in the case. Jurors, he noted, were told about the credit card and hair but did not know about the earrings. They were also not made aware of Holman's criminal behavioral pattern, which included “repeated home burglaries, crimes of dishonesty, and stalking offenses,” the judge stated.

Several witnesses claimed they had seen Holman’s pickup truck near Jeschke’s home the evening of her death. The reasoning that Holman allegedly gave to the police about being on the scene turned out to be allegedly false –  “all of which the jury did not hear,” the judge said in his order.

The judge pointed out that officials failed to properly investigate Holman's role in the case. Holman died in 2015.

Hemme was serving a life sentence for the 1980 killing, until the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization intervened, Washington Post reported.

Lawyers associated with the non-profit organization filed a petition in February of 2023, seeking exoneration and freedom for Hemme, The Kansas City Star reported.

They argued that the "confession" on which prosecutors built their case against Hemme was false and alleged the murder was carried out by a corrupt official in the St. Joseph area.

The Innocence Project shared that Hemme was questioned in the hospital and was “so heavily medicated that she was unable to even hold her head up and was restrained and strapped to a chair.” Their effort was successful, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office agreed to review the case. The evidentiary hearing is set for July 10.

If acquitted, Hemme, now 64, will be the longest-serving woman known to be wrongfully convicted in U.S. history,  Jane Pucher, Hemme’s Innocence Project lawyer told People.

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