Judge Sentences Wisconsin Woman to Life in Prison for Intentional Homicide

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
April 7, 2024News
Judge Sentences Wisconsin Woman to Life in Prison for Intentional Homicide
Jessy Kurczewski sobs as the jury finds her guilty on all counts during her trial in the Waukesha County Courthouse in Waukesha, Wis., on Nov. 14, 2023. (Ebony Cox/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via AP)

A Wisconsin woman has been sentenced to life in prison for fatally poisoning her friend with eye drop liquid.

Jessy Kurczewski, 39, was handed down the life sentence for first-degree intentional homicide on April 5 for the October 2018 murder of Lynn Hernan.

The 62-year-old victim died from high levels of the main ingredient found in Visine eye drops.

“You targeted her,” Judge Jennifer Dorow said during the sentencing hearing. “You have evil in your heart.”

A jury found Ms. Kurczewski guilty of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony theft in November 2023.

Ms. Kurczewski was the victim’s caregiver and checked on her daily. She went to her home and reported to the police that she was unresponsive and not breathing. She also told police that she believed Ms. Hernan was suicidal due to debilitating health conditions. The victim was found with crushed medication on her chest.

When investigators questioned Ms. Kurczewski about why the scene looked staged, she insisted that Ms. Hernan must have staged her suicide.

Ms. Kurczewski also told investigators that she gave her friend a water bottle filled with six bottles of Visine. A toxicology report found high levels of the eye drop chemical, tetrahydrozoline, in the victim’s system.

She tearfully spoke for nearly two hours at the April 5 sentencing and claimed that she was trying to help, not hurt, her friend. She continued to maintain her innocence and argued that Ms. Hernan willingly drank the Visine on her own.

“She took it to help her sleep and it took away her pain. To say I killed someone who I considered family? It just doesn’t make sense,” Ms. Kurczewski said.

A turning point in the trial came when prosecutors revealed evidence that she researched the effects of tetrahydrozoline on the internet. Prosecutors also pointed out that the defendant was one of the beneficiaries of her friend’s will.

“Lynn Hernan became worth more dead than alive,” they argued.

Records revealed that she stole nearly $300,000 from her friend and transferred large amounts of money from her bank accounts to her own. She used the stolen funds to make big purchases, including a Las Vegas vacation.

“It is a lot to be accused and convicted of murder when I didn’t do it,” Ms.Kurczewski said. She added that she was being held responsible for her friend’s own actions.

Prosecutors expressed satisfaction with the jury’s verdict.

“The verdict today is a step toward closure for those who grieve for Lynn,” Abbey Nickolie, the county’s deputy district attorney, said in a statement. “It sends a clear message to the community that our society will not tolerate the intentional act of taking someone’s life.”

The judge said Ms. Kurczewski will be eligible for extended supervision after 30 years when she is in her 70’s. But the two theft convictions added a sentence of ten extra years which will be served consecutive to the life sentence, meaning she will likely be in prison for the rest of her life.

The judge said that the goal was to keep her behind bars until she was old enough not to be a threat to anyone.

“There’s really not anyone who’s safe from you when it comes to your willingness to steal, to defraud,” she said.

Ms. Kurczewski was also ordered to pay $386,000 in restitution. Her defense attorney said that she “plans to vigorously appeal” her conviction.

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