Another bombshell has dropped in the twisted sex-and-murder saga involving Houston lawyer Jeffrey Stern, his wife Yvonne, and Jeffrey’s former mistress Michelle Gaiser. In the story I wrote about the case in February (“ Sex, Lies, and Hitmen ”), I laid out the police’s allegation, based on the statements of ex-mistress Gaiser, that Jeffrey had paid Gaiser to hire various hit men to shoot his wife. Gaiser said she had hired at least three hit men, all of whom tried to kill Yvonne but missed. (One of the hitmen did wing her in the abdomen.) After his arrest for solicitation of capital murder, Jeffrey admitted he had carried on an affair with Gaiser, a native of the Philippines, but he insisted that she came up with the murder-for-hire plot all on her own and he never suspected her of hiring the hit men.
The big turn in the story was that Yvonne stuck with Jeffrey, telling the press that although she was upset with him for having an affair, she knew that her husband was the victim of a Glenn Close-like “fatal attraction.”
The trial, which is set for July, obviously hinges on whether the jury believes Jeffrey or Michelle, who says she was an innocent dupe who deeply loved Jeffrey and who only hired the hit men because she wanted to please her lover.
Now comes the allegations— announced today by Jeffrey’s attorney Paul Nugent at a press conference at the Stern home in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston—that in early May Michelle had gotten to know another female inmate in the county jail (where Michelle is awaiting sentencing for her role in the murder for hire plot) and tried to persuade that inmate, who was about to be released, to murder Jeffrey. According to Nugent, Michelle Gaiser wrote a letter to the other woman giving her details on how to carry out the hit on Jeffrey, a job that would pay the hit woman $10,000. Rumor has it that she suggested that the fellow female inmate, upon being released, travel to Aspen, where the Sterns have a summer home, to kill both Jeffrey and Yvonne. She allegedly went so far as to draw maps of the Stern’s homes in Bellaire and Aspen.
Nugent claims the FBI has investigated the allegations and has verified that the letter from Michelle is valid. He also says Gaiser made numerous phone calls trying to arrange a hit on Jeffrey Stern. He adds that the reason he decided to go public with the news at a press conference was because the Sterns are scared—perhaps, they think, Michelle has made other deals with other potential hit men—and they have not been offered any police protection. (Nugent says Jeffrey Stern has been told that he can’t be protected because he is charged in the hits on his wife.)
Let’s assume Nugent’s allegations are accurate. Why would Michelle Gaiser do such a thing? Well, for one thing, in other letters she has written from jail, she has made it clear that she feels Jeffrey abandoned her after she was arrested. He had promised, she wrote, to pay for a good attorney and keep her out of trouble. But he double-crossed her, she claimed, laying the whole case at her feet so that he could go free. It could also be possible that Michelle has more sinister motives in mind. With Jeffrey dead, there would be no trial, and Jeffrey’s defense team, in their attempt to portray Michelle as a conniving killer, would not be able to present alleged evidence showing that she had committed other crimes.
Now what does the DA's office do about the upcoming trial? Obviously, with the jailhouse letter, prosecutors are going to have a lot more difficulty persuading a jury that Michelle was simply a victim of Jeffrey, merely doing his bidding. They also have another problem. They cut a deal earlier with Michelle and her attorneys in which she would plead to a 25-year sentence in return for her testimony about Jeffrey wanting his wife dead. Obviously, Nugent is going to play up that deal to the jury, suggesting that prosecutors are coddling Michelle, giving a vengeful killer a light sentence in order to get the testimony from her that they want. On the other hand, the DA can now simply retract that deal and still put Michelle on the stand to testify. If she does agree to testify with no deal in place, and if she doesn’t change the story she originally told police about Jeffrey wanting her to find hit men to knock off his wife, then her story could hold up with a jury. Yes, she’s going to get hammered by Nugent. But there’s a chance twelve jurors will still believe her. There’s a chance they will conclude that Jeffrey had to have been the mastermind behind the attempts to have his wife shot dead.
So far, the prosecutor in the Stern trial, Harris County assistant district attorney Kari Allen, isn’t talking. And who can blame her? This is a case that will go down in the annals of criminal judicial history. Just consider the facts. The victim in the case, Yvonne Stern, is adamantly defending the defendant in the case who supposedly wanted her killed: her own husband. And now the star witness, Michelle Gaiser, has been accused of trying to kill that same defendant before the trial takes place.
The trial is scheduled for the last week of July—if there is a trial. Allen just might throw up her hands and drop all charges against Jeffrey. And that would be the biggest bombshell of all.