Wisconsin woman found guilty of poisoning friend with eyedrops

December 12, 2023

A Franklin, Wisconsin woman was found guilty last month at a Waukesha County trial, in the killing of a friend she poisoned with Visine eyedrops.

Jessy Kurczewski was found guilty on all three charges against her in the death of friend, 62-year-old Lynn Hernan, in 2018, including first-degree intentional homicide, intentional homicide and theft.

On October 3, 2018, Hernan was found unconscious in her Meadowgrass Circle, Pewaukee home. She was sitting upright in a chair in the living room, with bottles of prescription pills on the table next to her, and ground up pills dusting her chest. Her friend and self-proclaimed carer, Jessy Kurczewski, was the one to find her, and called emergency services for help. She explained to police that she had been going over to Hernan’s home on a daily basis to provide care.

When questioned by police, Kurczewski told them that due to declining health, Hernan had been suffering from suicidal thoughts.

At a glance, it looked to be a case of death by overdose, however, this was not the case.

A later toxicology report stated that Hernan had a large volume of tetrahydrozoline in her system at the time of her death. Tetrahydrozoline is the main ingredient in eye drops, such as Visine, an over-the-counter medication used to temporarily treat eyes effected by minor irritants.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology: "When consumed orally, tetrahydrozoline passes quickly through the gastrointestinal tract, rapidly reaching the blood and the central nervous system. Symptoms of an overdose of tetrahydrozoline include drowsiness, slow breathing or absence of breathing, slow heartbeat, hypothermia and possibly even coma."

 

The case was reopened three months later following this discovery.

Jessy Kurczewski was arrested in connection with Hernan’s murder in June 2021 after police obtained a warrant to search her residence. She was also accused of stealing over $290,000 from the ailing woman for the two years leading up to her death.

Kurczewski pleaded not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide, theft of moveable property greater than $100,000 in value, and theft of moveable property between $10,000 and $100,000 in value.

She attempted to argue that Lynn Hernan liked to drink Vodka and Visine.

In a closing argument at last month’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Abbey Nickolie reiterated that Hernan's credit score had dropped significantly in the months leading up to her death, citing maxed out credit cards as one of the reasons, as well as large checks made out in Kurczewski's name, and a loan she deemed fraudulent. One of the checks was for $130,000.

Defense Attorney Donna Kuchler argued that Hernan's death was a result of a mixture of various drugs in Hernan's system, which he said she likely took for pain during the final stages of her life. He argued that Hernan looked at Kurczewski "as a daughter," and wrote her checks because "she wanted to." To which Nickolie argued was an attempt to mislead the jury by attacking the victim’s character.

The trial was delayed due to multiple changes in representation and missed deadlines and the sentencing is currently on hold due to Jessy Kurczewski's defense attorneys withdrawing from the case due to "conflict of interest." 

Kurczewski attempted to create a new alibi, by sending a letter almost 40 pages long to a friend, asking them for help and to forge documents and voice recordings.

In the handwritten letter, which was scrawled on the back of her trial notes from November and somehow delivered without a stamp or envelope, Kurczewski denies any involvement in the death of Lynn Hernan, and writes:

"I did not kill Lynn, nor did I assist, nor did I ever steal a dime from her. I trust you and whether you help or not, this is something I need you to take to your grave."

Kurczewski then provided instructions for the friend to follow, which included imitating Hernan in a voice recording and saying she was suicidal. Kurczewski suggested this friend play a movie that the victim liked in the background, telling the friend to be careful that the release date was before the date of Hernan’s death when selecting a movie or TV show.

Lynn was known for her love of black and white movies, especially those starring Bette Davis, as well as The wizard of Oz.

She added that “no one would remember” Hernan’s voice, as it “had been five years,” and suggested the while imitating Hernan, the friend include a fabricated story about Lynn Hernan voluntarily ingesting a fatal dose of eyedrops because she was guilt-ridden that she had killed her own mother in the same way.

Kurczewski even provided a checklist of items the friend would need to carry out the plan, such as a computer, envelopes, a cassette, and gloves.

 

Lynn Hernan worked as a beautician and hair stylist and had owned her own salon. She couldn’t resist taking in a stray animal off the street and in her obituary, her family said she did not want a funeral service, rather people to donate to no-kill animal shelters in her memory.

She is dearly missed by friends and loved ones.

 Sources: [X][X][X][X]



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