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Jan. 21, 2024Chillicothe, Mo. |  By: AP

Attorneys argue woman is innocent in 1980 killing and shift blame to former Missouri police officer


CHILLICOTHE, Mo. (AP) — Attorneys for a Missouri woman who has spent more than four decades in prison for a murder her supporters believe she did not commit argued at a hearing this week that the evidence points to a police officer who was investigated for burglaries and later went to prison.

The only evidence linking Sandra Hemme to the 1980 killing of St. Joseph library worker Patricia Jeschke is the “wildly contradictory” and “factually impossible” statements she made to detectives while she was a patient at a psychiatric hospital, her attorneys say. Hemme, who goes by Sandy and is now 63, was sentenced to life.

The hearing to present evidence of her innocence was granted after her attorneys filed a 147-page petition laying out their claims. Livingston County Presiding Judge Ryan Horsman will issue a decision in the coming weeks or months, The Kansas City Star reported.

If Hemme is exonerated, her prison term would mark the longest known wrongful conviction of a woman in U.S. history.

Steven Fueston, a retired St. Joseph Police Department detective, testified that he stopped one of the interviews with Hemme at the St. Joseph State Hospital because “she didn’t seem totally coherent.”

Over eight sessions of questioning, Hemme’s attorneys with the Innocence Project say her story changed from denying any involvement to implicating a man who turned out to have an airtight alibi and falsely confessing to Jeschke’s murder.

Hemme’s legal team said evidence instead points to Michael Holman, a 22-year-old police officer who was investigated for insurance fraud and burglaries and later went to prison. He died in 2015.

Holman had been a suspect and was questioned one time. He told investigators he used Jeschke’s credit card after finding a purse in a ditch. His truck was also seen in the area of the killing; the alibi he provided about why he was nearby could not be corroborated.

A pair of gold horseshoe-shaped earrings identified by Jeschke’s father was also found in Holman’s possession.