Crime solving sometimes takes an extraordinary amount of time.
Take the Jack Jessee murder case. A Rambo-knife wielding intruder killed Jessee in his Placentia living room in August 1998--when the biggest national news was President Bill Clinton's sticky Monica Lewinsky mess. Though police quickly suspected Sandra Jessee, the victim's wife (and even strip searched her at one point), the crime went unsolved for nearly a decade.
During that period, the people allegedly involved in the conspiracy plot--Jessee, Thomas Aehlert, Brett Schrauben and Thomas Joseph Garrick--happily used about $600,000 from the dead man's life insurance proceeds and savings to buy homes, adult toys, Las Vegas gambling trips and narcotics. One, Garrick, even used his murder fee to fix methamphetamine-destroyed teeth, according to court records.
Fate finally caught up to Jessee, Aehlert and Schrauben in 2007, when sheriff's homicide detectives won a detailed confession from Schrauben in exchange for a generous plea bargain. Jessee and Aehlert stood trial in 2009 and narrowly escaped spending the rest of their lives in a California prison because of an 11-1 guilty verdict. Afterwards, Aehlert confessed his role in the plot and named his mother as the mastermind in the death of his stepfather. Jessee is on trial now and will need to overcome damning testimony from Schrauben and Aehlert.
For more than 4,800 days, Garrick--who denied involvement in the crime even though police believe he was the person who stabbed Jack Jessee to death for $20,000 in cash--escaped accountability.
Indeed, Schrauben blabbed about Garrick's primary role in the killing four years ago in a recorded confession.
Last week, prosecutor Michael F. Murray revealed in open court that Garrick's arrest was "imminent." Because of Aehlert's confession, Murray now has two eyewitnesses--Aehlert and Schrauben--who have described Garrick's role. Indeed, Murray has had Aehlert's confession for nearly a year.
So why wasn't Garrick immediately arrested?
During a heated courtroom battle (described in-depth in my Moxley Confidential column contained in this week's edition of the paper), an angry Murray blamed Derek Bercher, Jessee's defense lawyer.
The prosecutor said that Bercher threatened to use Garrick's arrest to further delay the Jessee re-trial, a move that was unacceptable to Murray. He's been trying to convict the woman since 2007. During that period, she has resided in the Orange County Jail.
So, Murray held off the arrest, launched his case against Jessee earlier this month and, over Bercher's strenuous objections, got the defendant's son to finger her and Garrick.
(Last week, Bercher improperly told the Jessee jurors that Garrick hadn't been arrested in the case, a move that infuriated Murray because the panel might use the information against the government's case, and they wouldn't learn that it was Bercher who'd essentially blocked the accused killer's arrest up until that point. The prosecutor demanded sanctions against Bercher, but Superior Court Judge James A. Stotler refused to consider the request until after the trial.)
Did the extraordinary delay in capturing Garrick bother the victim's surviving relatives?
According to Chere Williams, one of Jack Jessee's daughters, no.
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"We believe Mike knows what he is doing and that all of my father's killers will get what they deserve," she said. "We've waited so long for justice."
Garrick, who is not eligible for bail because he faces a "special circumstances" allegation, is scheduled to hear a judge read the charges against him on Monday, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department records.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
(rscottmoxley at ocweekly dot com)