WAUKESHA — Day 8 in the trial of a Franklin woman accused of killing a family friend by poisoning her with eyedrops was underway Wednesday, Nov. 1.
Jessy Kurczewski, 39, has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony theft.
Kurczewski is accused of killing a family friend by poisoning her with eye drops in 2018 at a Pewaukee home. Prosecutors accused her of killing 61-year-old Lynn Hernan five years ago. Kurczewski was Hernan's caregiver and one of only two people named in Hernan's will. Prosecutors say the alleged crime was motivated by greed.
This article has highlights from each trial day below.
Background on the case
According to a criminal complaint, the case began in 2018 when Kurczewski called police and said her friend was not breathing. A deputy arrived at the Pewaukee home and found a woman with "a large amount of crushed medication on her chest and on a nearby plate" along with prescription medication around her.
Initially, investigators believed it could be a drug overdose.
The complaint stated that Kurczewski told investigators she had been taking care of her friend, who was "acting odd" leading up to her death and believed she was suicidal.
However, witnesses and people who knew the victim told law enforcement things were not adding up and they had concerns about the validity of the victim leaving her estate to Kurczewski.
In January of 2019, the medical examiner said a toxicology report showed a lethal amount of tetrahydrozoline, the main ingredient in eye drops, in the victim's blood. The medical examiner reported the cause of death was homicide, not suicide or an accident.
Months later, Kurczewski said she brought her friend a water bottle holding six bottles worth of Visine and her friend drank it. Kurczewski claimed she was helping her friend do what she wanted.
Trial Day 8 reporting:
Day 8 of the eye drop murder trial began Wednesday, Nov. 1 with a closer look at Jezzy Kurczewski's financial habits.
A Waukesha County detective, Nate Plennes, testified about Lynn Hernan's transactions, claiming "out of the ordinary" trends continued after her death. This includes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
His investigation began in 2016 at the beginning of Lynn and Jessy's relationship, according to Court TV. Of 22 checks cut from Lynn's MMA opened in October 2014, 20 of those were to Jessy. The final balance of the account after Lynn's death was $88. This included transactions at a bar and casino, places Lynn never frequented.
Trial Day 7 reporting:
Day 7 of the eye drop murder trial took place on Tuesday, Oct. 31 with testimony from a woman who was incarcerated with Jezzy Kurczewski.
Magdalena Soboniak testified that Jessy told her that Lynn died after taking too much medication, according to Court TV. Jessy allegedly said she would pay bills, buy kids furniture, and televisions, and go to casinos often with Lynn's money and write herself checks.
Officer Francis Stahl testified that Jessy was a suspect in a fraud case where she allegedly admitted she was trying to fraudulently open an account under the name of her upstairs neighbors.
A close friend of Lynn's, Anthony Pozza, said Jessy immediately brought up Lynn's will after her death. He signed paperwork making Jessy the personal representative of Lynn's estate. Following that, he began receiving credit card bills that said "red flags."
Pozza's attorney testified she saw credit card bills totaling more than $100,000, something she found odd for an older woman who didn't often leave her home, Court TV reports.
Trial Day 6 reporting:
Day 6 in the eye drop murder trial began Monday, Oct. 30 with recorded prison phone calls between Jessy Kurczewski and her ex-boyfriend.
Court TV reports that Jessy's ex-boyfriend, Scott Craig, was angry that she had lied to him repeatedly. They dated until the day she was arrested. He said he believed Hernan had been in a coma for months, not in and out of the hospital.
Craig's cousin, Daniel Radlof, lived with the couple temporarily and said Jessy admitted she was laid off for multiple months but put on a facade about going to work. He alleged she gambled a lot.
Craig's ex-wife and daughter were aware she took care of Lynn. They said they were surprised by how much money Jessy spent, including offering to send one to visit Thailand, Court TV reports.
The jury was also shown a video of police talking to Jessy and her mother.
Trial Day 5 reporting:
Day 5 in the eye drop murder trial began Friday, Oct. 27 with testimonies from a toxicologist, a friend of the victim, and the victim's ex-boyfriend.
According to Court TV, Dr. Sherri Kacinko, a toxicologist, said it is very unusual to see such high amounts of tetrahydrozoline as she did in Lynn Hernan's blood. The defense pointed out other medications and drugs Hernan had in her system that have adverse effects and risk of death.
Hernan's friend, Koreen Pozza, said that although Hernan was thoughtful and generous, she was frugal and didn't give expensive gifts and never cash. Pozza testified Hernan said she wanted Pozza's son, Anthony, to get the $50,000 she kept in a bank lockbox.
Hernan's ex-boyfriend, James Kelliher, also described Hernan as frugal and said she never freely gave him money. He described a strange phone call with Jessy and Jessy's mother right before Hernan died while she was in the hospital, Court TV says. Kelliher said that Hernan never told him she was suicidal.
Trial Day 4 reporting:
Day 4 in the eye drop murder trial began Thursday, Oct. 26 with Waukesha County's medical examiner returning to the witness stand.
Dr. Linda Biedzrycki testified she could not definitively say whether Lynn Hernan drank the eye drops voluntarily, Court TV reports. She also testified that blood tests indicated that Hernan was not intoxicated at the time of her death.
Trial Day 3 reporting:
Day 3 in the trial of Jessy Kurczewski, 39, began Wednesday, Oct. 25.
The Franklin woman is accused of killing a family friend by poisoning her with eye drops. Prosecutors accused her of killing 61-year-old Lynn Hernan five years ago. Kurczewski was Hernan's caregiver and one of only two people named in Hernan's will. Prosecutors say the alleged crime was motivated by greed.
On Wednesday, Dr. Linda Biedrzycki with the Waukesha County Medical Examiner's Office, testified to Hernan's toxicology report. She discussed Tetrahydrozoline symptoms and effects. She concluded that Hernan died by homicide of Tetrahydrozoline poisoning with contributing factors of other medications, which could have increased the effects of Tetrahydrozoline, according to Court TV. She was on the stand for more than three hours and will continue into Thursday.
To give more insight into the case, TMJ4 invited Attorney Jonathan Lavoy to speak with us. He shares the cause of death is going to be key in the trial and how that will play out with jurors when experts from both sides talk about it.
Watch what he had to share below:
Trial Day 2 reporting:
A jury heard opening remarks Tuesday in the trial of a Franklin woman accused of killing a family friend by poisoning her with eyedrops.
37-year-old Jessy Kurczewski has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony theft.
Prosecutors have accused her of killing 61-year-old Lynn Hernan in October 2018. Her motivation, prosecutors said, was greed.
"There's certainly a factual, bare-bones timeline of theft, murder, and more theft. But there's this almost overlaid timeline of all of the defendant's lies and deceit," said Assistant District Attorney Randy Sitzberger in the state's opening.
According to the criminal complaint, she defrauded Hernan of nearly $300,000, including money from her estate.
"She finally gave that water bottle, knowing it had, in the defendant's estimation, six bottles of Visine to Lynn Hernan, knowing it could kill her, and walks out of that condo unit, closes the door, and goes shopping on Lynn's dime," said Sitzberger.
Kurczewski's defense team said Lynn Hernan was like a mother to Kurczewski.
"If Lynn Hernan was there today, she would say, 'Are you crazy, prosecution? That's my daughter you have sitting at that desk over there. That's my daughter,'" said Defense Attorney Pablo Galaviz in his opening.
According to Galaviz, Hernan knew Kurczewski was spending her money and that Hernan was depressed, coping with alcohol and prescription medication. He said Hernan wanted to die and "didn't like life."
"She had a boatload of [prescription medication] in her system. And they're saying the Visine killed her? Not the other pills she had in her system along with the alcohol?" said Galaviz.
The state called witnesses on Tuesday, including current and former law enforcement officers who responded to Hernan's house on the evening she was found dead.
Tabitha Kukes, former Waukesha County Assistant Medical Examiner, also took the stand. She pronounced Hernan dead at her home on October 3, 2018, and testified Tuesday that she found prescription medication on and near the body.
“All that really matters is what the toxicology shows. All that really matters is what’s in the decedent's bloodstream at the time of death, not necessarily what’s [at the scene],” said Kukes.