SANTA ANA, Calif. — A woman was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for having her ailing husband murdered to avoid paying for his cancer treatment and to collect his insurance.Sandra Jessee, 61, was convicted by a jury last year of murder for financial gain and conspiracy in the stabbing death of her husband Jack in 1998.
Prosecutors said Jessee and her son Thomas Aehlert hired a hit man to kill her third husband because she was tired of caring for him. Jessee received more than $650,000 after her husband's murder from the sale of the couple's Placentia home, his 401(k) death benefits and insurance, prosecutors said.
During Friday's sentencing, Jack Jessee's daughters and brother pleaded with Orange County Superior Court Judge James A. Stotler to impose a life sentence, which was required by her conviction.
"At first I wanted the death penalty, but I think it would be much better for her to sit and rot in jail," Chere Williams, one of Jack Jessee's daughters, told the court.
Stotler told Sandra Jessee, who wore thick glasses and a jail jumpsuit, that he would not have granted her probation, even if the law allowed it. He set a hearing for May 4 to discuss restitution for the victim's family.
Defense attorney Derek Bercher said his client would appeal.
In the spring of 1998, Jack Jessee was diagnosed with cancer at age 56. His wife and Aehlert agreed to pay Aehlert's friend Brett Schrauben $50,000 for the murder, and Schrauben enlisted help from his friend, Thomas Garrick, to carry out the job, prosecutors said.
In August, Sandra Jessee left her house under the pretense of going to the bank. Schrauben and Garrick drove to her home and Garrick went inside and stabbed Jack Jessee, prosecutors said.
Minutes later, Jessee's daughter Cheryl Deanda went to visit him and found him dead in his living room.
The case went cold until 2005 when investigators were able to link the suspects in the murder.
In 2007, Sandra Jessee and Aehlert were arrested in Arizona and brought to stand trial in Orange County. A jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of their conviction in 2009.
In October, Aehlert pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He testified in his mother's retrial last year and is set to be sentenced in September.
Schrauben pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter in 2008. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
Garrick has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has yet to stand trial.