Nearly three years after Lynn Hernan was found dead in her Pewaukee, Wisconsin, condo, a family friend who had been caring for her has been arrested on murder charges.
The twist? Authorities allege Jessy Rose Kurczewski, 37, poisoned Hernan with eyedrops after stealing nearly $300,000 from the 64-year-old, then tried to convince investigators that Hernan had in fact died by suicide by overdosing on drugs. In reality, cops say, Kurczewski was a down-on-her-luck gambling addict with a history of fraud who duped Hernan out of thousands before getting herself named the sole heir to Hernan’s estate.
It all began on the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2018, when Kurczewski summoned police to Hernan’s home saying that Hernan had passed out and wasn’t breathing, according to a criminal complaint filed last week in Waukesha County Court. A sheriff’s deputy arrived to find a “pale” Hernan lying unconscious in a recliner, with “a large amount of crushed medication on her chest and a plate directly to the left of her with a large amount of what appeared to be crushed up medication still on the plate.” The deputy spotted a “large number of prescription medication bottles on the table on either side of her. Fire Department medics arrived on the scene and pronounced Hernan deceased.
“Based on the initial observations investigators believed this could have been a drug overdose,” states the complaint, which was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Kurczewski told cops that Hernan—who is identified only as “Victim A” in the complaint, but is named in a now-reopened probate case regarding the will—had been acting “odd” throughout the week. She said she “believed there was a possibility that [Hernan] was suicidal but also stated she believed [Hernan] really loved her cats, often worried about them and wouldn’t want to leave them behind.”
However, neighbors and others who knew Hernan told police that they didn’t believe she was suicidal or would have overdosed on drugs, intentionally or not. One longtime friend told detectives that he had suspicions about Kurczewski and her mother, who were using Hernan’s Jeep after she died even though the vehicle was meant to go to Hernan’s nephew.
In January 2019, a cousin of Hernan’s identified in the complaint as Witness B contacted the county medical examiner’s office with concerns about the circumstances of her death. In a follow-up interview with police, the cousin said he found it unusual that Hernan would have willed her entire estate to Kurczewski. He checked state records to see if Kurczewski had a criminal history, and saw several convictions for forgery and fraud.
“Witness B wanted to make sure that the will filed in probate was authentic and wanted to make sure there was nothing suspicious about the death of Victim A in the medical examiner’s autopsy report,” says the complaint.
That same month, an autopsy by Waukesha County Medical Examiner Linda Biedrzycki showed that Hernan had a fatal dose of tetrahydrozoline—the main ingredient in over-the-counter eye drops—in her system. The cause of death was listed as tetrahydrozoline poisoning and classified as a homicide, not suicide or an accident.
Kurczewski had reportedly called the medical examiner’s office numerous times, wanting to know about Hernan’s toxicology results.
“Kurczewski described many medical ailments that [Hernan] had prior to her death and told the detectives how frustrating it was that doctors could never diagnose or assist [Hernan] with her ailments,” says the complaint. “Kurczewski questioned whether [Hernan] died of medical reasons or whether the death was a suicide. The toxicology results were not shared with Kurczewski at that time.”
According to the complaint, Kurczewski speculated that Hernan was just overwhelmed with her myriad medical conditions, saying she could have been “sick of being sick and having no answers.” In a subsequent interview with detectives, Kurczewski’s live-in boyfriend said Kurczewski told him she had spent a lot of time with Hernan in the hospital toward the end of her life, while she was in a coma. However, detectives told him that Hernan hadn’t been hospitalized before she died, and was never in a coma.
The boyfriend also told police that Kurczewski earned $20 an hour working at a dental office but regularly spent $500 a night at a local casino and gave out expensive gifts such as laptop computers and Gameboys that others found “excessive” and “a little weird.”
In July 2019, cops executed a search warrant at the home Kurczewski shared with her boyfriend. She was taken to jail on a probation hold linked to a past violation, and detectives interviewed her six times over the next 10 days. Prosecutors allege that Kurczewski told an array of stories, talking about the various “illegal and legal controlled substances” that she claimed Hernan “would use and abuse throughout her life.” That’s when detectives told Kurczewski about the tetrahydrozoline the medical examiner found in Hernan’s system, prompting a disquisition from Kurczewski about how Hernan was “known” for eye drops, and that she purchased them in huge quantities. When detectives told Kurczewski they believed someone poisoned Hernan and staged the scene in Hernan’s home to make it appear as an overdose, Kurczewski “adamantly denied” killing Hernan, the complaint explains.
“Kurczewski offered that [Hernan] must have staged her own suicide with the crushed pills because Kurczewski maintained that she did not,” it continues. “Kurczewski also says she had never heard of ‘Visine poisoning’ before,” and claimed she wasn’t “buying” the medical examiner’s findings.
Kurczewski then insisted she had actually seen Hernan drinking vodka with Visine in it the day before she died.
“Kurczewski had no rational explanation for not disclosing this information to detectives during either of the prior two interviews,” says the complaint. “Kurczewski then says that once [Hernan] started having so much Visine at the house she researched it. Kurczewski said [Hernan] ‘tried pills twice’ but it didn’t work. Kurczewski then says that [Hernan] had Visine dumped into a bottle of vodka for days prior to her death. Kurczewski claimed [Hernan] had become very ill twice before her death from drinking Visine and she was ‘shitting all over.’”
She continued, allegedly telling detectives that Hernan had used her phone to research suicide methods, bought a gun with which she intended to kill herself, and had in fact “saved” Hernan from herself on at least two occasions after walking in on Hernan with a gun in her hand. Eventually, Kurczewski told investigators that Hernan had a bottle of water at home with six bottles of Visine dissolved into it and fought Hernan when she asked Kurczewski to hand it to her. Kurczewski then said “she’s probably going to prison for the rest of her life for helping [Hernan] do what she wanted.”
In all, police believe Kurczewski stole $290,210.06 from Hernan, spending more than $50,000 in less than a year at two Wisconsin casinos. She is now being held in lieu of $1 million cash bond. If Kurczewski manages to make bail, the conditions set by the court include: no employment as a caregiver, no contact with any casinos, and no use or possession of over-the-counter eye drops.
Kurczewski does not have a lawyer listed in court records, and was unable to be reached for comment. She is due back in court on June 25.