Prosecutor: Woman killed husband for greed

Defense attorney in the murder trial of Sandra Jessee, accused of having her ailing husband killed for profit, tells jurors the couple had a loving relationship and planned on growing old together.
A family photo of Jack Jessee and his wife, Sandra, in 1990.



SANTA ANA – A piece of paper found in the purse of a woman accused of hiring a hit man to kill her ailing husband was the trail detectives followed that led them to her and two co-conspirators, a prosecutor told an Orange County jury Monday.Years after the Aug. 13, 1998 Placentia stabbing death of Jack Jessee – Sandra Jessee’s third husband – an Orange County Sheriff’s Department detective seized on the one word scribbled on the paper found by Placentia police at the time of the killing: “Schrauben.”

Article Tab: Thomas Aehlert's booking photo.
Thomas Aehlert’s booking photo.

With that break, the cold case ended in the arrests of Sandra Jessee and her son, Thomas Dayton Aehlert, in 2007 in Arizona, following their Orange County indictment in connection with the murder-for-profit killing of Jack Jessee, prosecutors said.

Aehlert’s friend, Brett Schrauben, 39, also was arrested and was the man whom the mother and son solicited and paid $50,000 to kill Jack Jessee, 56, who was battling colon cancer, prosecutors said.

Sandra Jessee wanted her husband of 15 years dead, because his cancer treatment was eating up their nest egg, Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray told jurors in the opening statements of Jessee’s retrial on Monday.

Jurors deadlocked 11-to-1 in favor of conviction in 2009.

Sandra Jessee, 60, formerly of Placentia, had her husband murdered so she could save money by not paying for his cancer treatments and to profit from his insurance and 401k death benefits, prosecutors said.

“This woman right here, because of her greed, decided that Jack Jessee’s life should end,” Murray said, pointing to Sandra Jessee at the defense table.

She is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder for financial gain and one felony count of conspiracy. If convicted, she faces a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Jessee’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Derek Bercher, told jurors she and her husband had a loving relationship.

“Mrs. Jessee loved Mr. Jessee until the moment he died,” said Bercher, putting his hand on Sandra Jessee’s shoulder. “She cared for him. … They had planned on growing old together. Those scoundrels robbed her of that.”

Aehlert, 41, pleaded guilty in October to second-degree murder and faces a sentence of 15 years to life at his March sentencing.

Schrauben pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2008 and is scheduled to be sentenced in December, prosecutors said.

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