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Woman sentenced for cancer-stricken husband's murder

March 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Orange County woman who had her husband killed to avoid paying for his cancer treatment was sentenced on Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors say she also wanted to collect on his life insurance.

David Jessee looked at photos of his brother Jack, who was murdered nearly 14 years ago.

"He was such a tender, tender guy. He just picked the wrong one," he said.

Sandra Jessee, Jack's wife, was convicted last year of having him stabbed to death in their Placentia home in 1998. His daughter Cheryl from another marriage found his body.

"It's been hard on my sister, finding him the way she did. She gave him CPR, and the air from her breath was coming back on her through his chest through the holes that were left in his chest," said Chere Williams, the victim's daughter.

She and her sister came to court for the sentencing of the now 61-year-old convicted killer.

"Hopefully, some of the nightmares will finally go away," said the victim's daughter Cheryl Deanda.

Sandra Jessee hired a hit man to kill the 56-year-old after he was diagnosed with cancer. Prosecutors say the motive was money. She didn't want to care for her husband of 15 years and wanted to cash in on his life insurance policy.

"She spent that money like a drunken sailor for about three years. She went through more than half a million dollars," said prosecutor Mike Murray.

Prosecutors say Sandra Jessee conspired with Thomas Aehlert, her 42-year-old son from another marriage. Aehlert called a friend, Bret Schrauben, to arrange the murder in exchange for $50,000.

Schrauben's friend, Thomas Garrick, is accused of stabbing Jack Jessee to death. Aehlert and Schrauben pleaded guilty and testified against Sandra Jessee in the second trial. The first trial ended with jurors deadlocked in 2009. Garrick is now awaiting trial.

"I can't stand her," Chere Williams said. "Just the nature of the way she killed my dad and the greed."

Family members said the sentencing provided some closure, and they can now focus on happy memories.

"I was a very lucky girl to have such a great dad," said Cheryl Deanda.