Wisconsin woman convicted of causing death of family friend through poisoning with eye drops

On Tuesday, a 39-year-old woman from Franklin, Wisconsin, named Jessy Kurczewski, was convicted of intentionally causing the death of her family friend, 62-year-old Lynn Hernan, by poisoning her water bottle with Visine drops in 2018. Alongside this heinous act, Kurczewski was found guilty of embezzling nearly $300,000 from Hernan.

Wisconsin woman found guilty of poisoning friend with eye drops

The verdict, delivered by a Waukesha County jury, includes one felony count of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of theft related to the death of Lynn Hernan. The homicide charge carries a mandatory life sentence in prison, while the theft charges each have a maximum penalty of five years behind bars.

In 2021, Kurczewski entered a plea of not guilty to the three charges. When she was arrested in 2019, she consistently denied any involvement in the death of the victim, including killing her, assisting, or staging her demise.

The defense chose not to make any statements to reporters after the jury delivered the verdict. The sentencing hearing for Kurczewski is set for December 7.

After the verdict, Waukesha County Deputy District Attorney Abbey Nickolie expressed gratitude to the jury and witnesses for their dedication, emphasizing that the trial aimed to “seeking justice for life that was unjustly taken.” She characterized the verdict as “a step toward closure to all those who grieve Lynn.”

Anthony Pozza, a friend of Hernan who regarded her more as an aunt, shared that the entire ordeal had been “five years of stress.” Despite the challenges, Pozza felt compelled to be a part of the process for the sake of “Aunt Lynny.”

Lynn Hernan was found dead on Oct. 3, 2018

On October 3, 2018, Kurczewski contacted the police, reporting that her friend was unresponsive and not breathing, as detailed in a criminal complaint filed in June 2021. Subsequently, Lynn Hernan was discovered deceased in her condominium in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, with crushed medication on her chest and surrounded by prescription bottles.

In the complaint, Kurczewski informed the police that she was a family friend of the victim and held her power of attorney. She suggested that there was a “possibility” of Hernan being suicidal.

Toxicology reports revealed the presence of various medications in Hernan’s system, along with tetrahydrozoline, an ingredient found in Visine. The Waukesha County medical examiner concluded that Hernan had been poisoned and classified the death as a homicide.

In defense, Attorney Donna Kuchler contended that Hernan’s demise resulted from a “polydrug overdose,” referring to a lethal combination of various drugs in her system, rather than attributing it to the presence of tetrahydrozoline.

Jessy Kurczewski claimed the victim staged suicide

Following investigators’ revelation that Hernan was poisoned and the scene was manipulated to appear as a suicide, Kurczewski asserted, as per the complaint, that Hernan must have orchestrated her own suicide. Kurczewski also claimed that Hernan independently ingested eye drops with vodka.

Subsequently, Kurczewski admitted to investigators that she had provided Hernan with a water bottle containing the equivalent of six bottles’ worth of Visine, according to the complaint.

In July 2019, Kurczewski was apprehended following the issuance of a search warrant for her residence by law enforcement. Investigators determined that Kurczewski had embezzled over $290,210 from Hernan.

The complaint noted that Hernan’s financial behavior had undergone alterations over time coinciding with increased contact with Kurczewski.

Closing arguments on Nov. 13

During the state’s closing arguments on November 13, the emphasis was placed on tetrahydrozoline, citing it as the substance that caused Hernan’s death. However, Deputy District Attorney Nickolie also highlighted other financial aspects, pointing to a decline in Hernan’s credit score months before her demise.

This decline, she asserted, was partially attributed to maxed-out credit cards, a “fraudulent” loan, and numerous checks made out to Kurczewski for substantial amounts, all of which depleted Hernan’s bank account.

Detective Nathan Plennes of the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department reportedly determined that the documents provided by Kurczewski to demonstrate the money’s usage were fraudulent, according to Nickolie.

In her defense argument, Kuchler contended that Hernan’s death resulted from a combination of various drugs in her system, asserting that Hernan was experiencing significant pain due to a multitude of health issues. Kuchler further claimed that Hernan began spending money, including giving substantial amounts to Kurczewski, following a palliative care consultation and prior to the alleged decision to take her own life.

“Lynn gave Jessy money all the time because she wanted to,” Kuchler said. “Giving money to Jessy made her happy. Jessy was like her daughter.”

Deputy District Attorney Nickolie countered, stating that the defense was transforming their argument into “a full-blown attack on Lynn Hernan” in an attempt to “mislead” the jury.

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