A Wisconsin woman accused of poisoning her friend with eye drops became emotional when the defence showed the court photos of the two of them together and said the victim thought of her as a daughter.
Jessy Kurczewski, 39, is on trial in Waukesha County where she faces first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony theft in the 2018 death of 62-year-old Lynn Hernan.
Prosecutors allege Ms Kurczewski used eye drops to poison the woman, whom she was caring for, and staged the scene to look like a suicide by drug overdose. Ms Kurczewski also is accused of stealing $290,210 from her. She has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
During opening statements on Tuesday, defence attorney Pablo Galaviz attempted to tug on the jurors’ heartstrings by showing photos of his client posing with Hernan over the years, explaining that they had known each other since Ms Kurczewski was a child.
But it was Ms Kurczewski who broke down in tears as the photos splashed across the screen. One was from her high school graduation party that was hosted by Hernan, who was a friend of Ms Kurczewski’s mother. Another showed them posing for the camera with their arms wrapped around each other.
“If Lynn Hernan were here today, she would say ‘You are crazy, prosecution. That’s my daughter over there,’” Mr Galaviz said, pointing to Ms Kurczewski at the defence table. “That’s who she was to Lynn, her daughter, and she loved her.’”
Hernan died on 3 October 2018. Police responded to her home in Pewaukee after a call from Ms Kurczewski who found her unconscious. Responding officers found Hernan in a recliner with crushed medication on her chest, according to a criminal complaint.
Investigators initially thought she had overdosed, but Ms Kurczewski told them there was “a possibility” that Hernan was suicidal. However, other people who knew her, told authorities they didn’t think she would “intentionally or unintentionally overdose.”
Hernan’s death was believed to be a drug overdose but later ruled a homicide when the Waukesha County medical examiner found she had a fatal amount of tetrahydrozoline in her system.
When Kurczewski was told by investigators that it was tetrahydrozoline that killed her friend and that the scene was staged to look like a suicide, she said it was what her friend wanted and she must have staged her own suicide, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Ms Kurczewski later revealed to investigators she had given her friend a water bottle mixed with six bottles’ worth of Visine. She said she didn’t think it would kill her friend because she had been drinking it for so long.
Over the course of several interviews with police, Ms Kurczewski had told them she had brought Hernan a water bottle with Visine in it at her request. She said her friend was known to purchase a large volume of eyedrops and that she drank Visine with vodka before her death.
Investigators later found that Ms Kurczewski had committed nearly $300,000 worth of fraud, according to the criminal complaint, including a $130,204 check that was “transferred fraudulently” from the victim to herself.
She told investigators that she was acting as power of attorney and that Hernan had no immediate family, yet a cousin told authorities it was suspicious that she had left her entire estate to Ms Kurczewski.
She now faces charges of first-degree intentional homicide, theft of movable property greater than $100,000 in value, and theft of movable property between $10,000 and $100,000 in value, according to online court records.
The murder trial began Monday morning with jury selection with Judge Jennifer Dorow, who oversaw Darrell Brooks’ Waukesha parade massacre trial. Opening statements began on Tuesday afternoon. The trial is expected to last a month.