Sandra Hemme: Missouri woman in prison for murder since 1980 gets chance to prove innocence

Sandra Hemme has spent more than 40 years in prison for a 1980 murder in St. Joseph, Missouri. The Innocence Project says she falsely confessed and evidence points to a corrupt cop. (Neil Nakahodo/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Image

A Missouri woman imprisoned for murder for more than 40 years could have a chance to prove she didn't commit the crime. 

Sandra Hemme, 63, was convicted of murder in the Nov. 12, 1980, killing of Patricia Jeske, a library worker in St. Joseph, Missouri. 

Hemme has maintained her innocence in crime, and in 2023, the Missouri attorney general's office agreed to an evidentiary hearing for Hemme, which is set for Jan. 16 to 19, the Kansas City Star reported.

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Hemme's attorneys with The Innocence Project, a criminal justice nonprofit, say she was wrongfully convicted after police allegedly sedated her while she was experiencing a mental crisis and coerced her into making false statements, FOX News reported in 2023. 

In February 2023, a petition was filed by Hemme’s lawyers from the Innocence Project calling to acquit and free Hemme given the conflicting statements she shared with authorities. 

Who is Sandra Hemme and what happened in her case?

Hemme, who had no connection with Jeske, was 20 years old at the time she was a psychiatric patient at St. Joseph’s State Hospital receiving treatment for auditory hallucinations, derealization, and drug misuse. 

She spent most of her life, starting at 12 years old, in inpatient psychiatric treatment, according to the Innocence Project website.

Hemme initially pleaded guilty to capital murder, but her conviction was thrown out on appeal, the Associated Press reported. She was then found guilty in 1985 during a one-day jury trial in which the only evidence was her "confession."

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According to the Innocence Project, evidence pointed to Michael Holman, a St. Joseph police officer, as a suspect in Jeschke’s murder. 

Holman reportedly admitted to being near Jeschke’s home at the time of the killing. He also attempted to use the victim’s credit card the day after she was murdered. 

The Innocence Project asserts that police hid evidence that implicated Holman in the death of Jeschke. A pair of her earrings were found in Holman’s possession, and jewelry stolen during a home burglary.

Holman told police he was at a motel near Jeschke’s home during the time of the murder with another woman. When police asked him he refused to offer details about the woman he was with or the motel room they were both in. 

Witnesses at the motel and a gas station told police they didn’t recall seeing Holman or the other woman the day of Jeschke's murder. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Washington, D.C.