Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
|For Immediate Release
Case # 07ZF0009
December 7, 2011
Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
WOMAN CONVICTED OF MURDER-FOR-PROFIT CONSPIRACY TO HAVE CANCER-STRICKEN
SANTA ANA – A woman was convicted today for conspiring to have her third husband murdered so she could save money by not paying for his cancer treatments and financially profit from his insurance and 401k death benefits. Sandra Jessee, 60, formerly of Placentia, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of special circumstances murder for financial gain and one felony count of conspiracy. She faces a sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole at her sentencing March 2, 2012, in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
This was a re-trial of the case against Jessee, as a previous jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on July 21, 2009.
Sandra Jessee’s son from a previous marriage Thomas Dayton Aehlert, 41, Gold Canyon, AZ, pleaded guilty in this case Oct. 7, 2011, to one felony count of second degree murder and faces a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison at his sentencing hearing March 9, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35.
Co-defendant Thomas Joseph Garrick, 36, Laguna Hills, is charged with one felony count of special circumstances murder for financial gain and one felony count conspiracy to commit murder. He faces a maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. The defendant is being held without bail and is scheduled for continued arraignment Dec. 12, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana.
In the spring of 1998, Sandra Jessee’s third husband of 15 years, 56-year-old Jack Jessee, was diagnosed with cancer. Sandra Jessee wanted to move to Arizona, where Aehlert had recently moved. The victim did not want to leave California, where his adult children lived.
Between June 1, 1998, and July 1, 1999, Sandra Jessee conspired with Aehlert to hire a hit man to murder Jack Jessee for financial gain. Sandra Jessee wanted to have the victim murdered because she resented having to care for him and did not want to deplete their retirement savings, believing that insurance would not cover all of his cancer treatments.
On several occasions in June 1998, Aehlert called friend Brett Schrauben, 39, to solicit and arrange the murder of Jack Jessee in exchange for $50,000. On June 24, 1998, Sandra Jessee met Schrauben in a store parking lot in Placentia. She paid him $5,000 to kill her husband while she was away from her home and instructed him to make the murder look like a residential burglary.
On Aug. 13, 1998, Aehlert called Schrauben to discuss the murder, which was to take place that day. Schrauben requested his friend, Garrick, be the get-away driver.
That morning, Garrick is accused of driving Schrauben to the Jessee’s home so that Schrauben could carry out the murder, but they left after Schrauben changed his mind. When Schrauben called Aehlert and told him that the murder had not been committed, Aehlert told Schrauben that Jack Jessee had to be murdered that night or else Sandra Jessee would do it herself.
Schrauben told Garrick that the total payment offered by Jesse for the murder-for-hire was $25,000. Schrauben lied about the true $50,000 payment amount with the intention of keeping the extra money for himself. Based on the pay-out amount, Garrick is accused of agreeing to commit the murder and allowing Schrauben to trade with him as the get-away driver.
At approximately 8:00 p.m. that night, Sandra Jessee left her house under the pretense of going to the bank with the knowledge that her husband would be murdered while she was gone. After Sandra Jessee had left, Schrauben and Garrick returned to the victim’s house.
Garrick is accused of entering the home and stabbing the victim several times, killing him. Schrauben then drove Garrick away from the scene. Just minutes later, Jack Jessee’s adult daughter went to the victim’s house and discovered her murdered father in the living room.
After the murder of her husband, Sandra Jessee sold the Placentia home she had shared with Jack Jessee and moved to Arizona. She profited by receiving over $650,000 after the murder of her husband from the home sale profits and Jack Jessee’s 401(k) death benefits and insurance.
Between Dec. 18, 1998, and June 30, 1999, Aehlert met with Schrauben on multiple occasions in Phoenix, AZ, and Laughlin, NV, to pay him the remaining $45,000 for the murder. Garrick is accused of being paid $20,000 by Schrauben for his role committing the murder.
The case went cold until 2005, when additional investigation linked the defendants to the murder. Sandra Jessee was arrested on the Orange County warrant at her daughter’s home in Apache Junction, AZ, on May 25, 2007, by officers from the Phoenix Police Department. Aehlert was arrested that same day at his work in Phoenix, AZ.
Sandra Jessee and Aehlert were indicted on April 27, 2007. Schrauben pleaded guilty to one felony count of voluntary manslaughter on Nov. 20, 2008, and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13, 2011, in Department C-55 (Case #08CF3271). Garrick was arrested Nov. 22, 2011, as a result of the ongoing investigation into his role in the murder.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.