Missouri AG to Block Release of Woman Convicted of 1980 Murder

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey last week asked an appellate court to block the release of a woman who has spent 43 years in prison for the murder of a St. Joseph library worker in November 1980.

A judge overturned the conviction of 64-year-old Sandra Hamm on June 15 after lawyers from the Innocence Project presented evidence that the murder of 31-year-old library worker Patricia Jeschke was committed by a corrupt police officer.

In his decision, Judge Ryan Horsman ordered Hemme freed from prison within 30 days if prosecutors decide not to retry the case.

The judge found that Hemme was heavily medicated and in a “malleable mental state” when detectives questioned her at a psychiatric hospital two weeks after Jeschke’s death.

Horsman also determined that prosecutors in the case withheld evidence about St. Joseph police Officer Michael Holman, who was later investigated for burglaries and insurance fraud. Holman was sentenced to prison and died in 2015.

In a motion filed with the state appeals court on June 18, the attorney general argued that Hemme boasted about attacking a prison employee with a razor blade, for which she pleaded guilty in 1996, and had made statements saying she enjoyed violence.

Jeschke failed to show up for work on November 13, 1980. Jeschke’s mother went to her apartment and climbed through the window out of concern for her daughter’s well-being. She found Jeschke lying nude on the floor with her hands bound behind her back with a telephone cord and a pair of pantyhose wrapped around her neck. The knife used to stab her was under Jeschke’s head.

Hemme, who had a history of psychological problems and was on antipsychotic medications, later became a suspect after she showed up at the home of a nurse who previously treated her, armed with a knife.

Police subsequently learned that Hemme, who had been in and out of hospitals for psychological problems since she was 12, had been released from St. Joseph’s Hospital the day before Jeschke was found murdered.

Hemme eventually pleaded guilty to capital murder to avoid the death penalty. The plea was later tossed on appeal and Hemme was convicted again in 1985.

According to Judge Horsman, the only evidence linking Hemme to Jeschke’s murder were her “unreliable statements.” He noted that the evidence against former Officer Holman, which was withheld from the defense, directly tied him to both the murder and the crime scene.