Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
WOMAN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE FOR MURDER-FOR-PROFIT CONSPIRACY TO HAVE CANCER-STRICKEN HUSBAND KILLED
SANTA ANA – A woman was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole 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 401(k) death benefits. Sandra Jessee, 61, formerly of Placentia, was found guilty by a jury Dec. 7, 2011, of one felony count of special circumstances murder for financial gain and one felony count of conspiracy. Jessee was convicted in a re-trial of the case, 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, 42, 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 Sept. 7, 2012, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-35, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
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 a preliminary hearing April 27, 2012, at 9:00 a.m. in Department C-55.
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.