HOUSTON - The characters in this story could be right out of a Hollywood script -- a high-priced attorney cheating on his wife, the mistress in the middle and the scorned wife standing by her man.
But when Bellaire attorney Jeffrey Stern was charged with being the mastermind behind the plot to kill his wife, Yvonne, and his mistress Michelle Gaiser was accused with helping him do it, a real-life drama began to unfold. The case began making headlines across the country.
It all started in February 2010, when someone fired shots at the Sterns' quiet, upscale Bellaire home. No one was hit. Two months later, police said someone shot at the home again. This time, a gunman knocked on the door, shot through the glass and narrowly missed hitting Yvonne Stern.
On May 5, 2010, the target became clear. Yvonne Stern stumbled out of her SUV and begged employees at a gas station at North Braeswood and Loop 610 to help her. She'd been shot three times in the stomach while she sat in her vehicle inside an apartment complex parking garage.
Yvonne Stern survived the wounds, but her pain was just beginning.
In February 2011, Jeffrey Stern turned himself in to authorities after Harris County prosecutors charged him with crafting the plot to kill his wife and said he used his Gaiser to help him.
"Let me be perfectly clear, Jeff Stern is innocent of these charges," said Paul Nugent in 2011. Nugent is Jeffrey Stern's defense attorney.
Yvonne Stern stood by her man then and is still standing by him now. While she was hurt by the affair, she said she never believed he would have her killed.
Meanwhile, Gaiser pleaded guilty late last year and agreed to serve 25 years in prison in turn for testifying in the future against her former lover.
Just when you thought the story couldn't get any more bizarre, defense attorneys dropped another bombshell on June 12. In front of the Sterns' home, Nugent read portions of a four-page note he said Gaiser gave to another inmate offering $20,000 to kill Jeffrey Stern.
The following are excerpts from the alleged letter provided by Nugent:
- "Whatever you do it must look like a hit. It's gotta be accidental death. Obviously even a close range shot didn't get rid of the wife so you have to shoot elsewhere to finish it. Or a knife in the neck, cut the carotid artery and its over! Remember Bellaire is small with lots of cameras. Catch him outside the Bellaire Quadrant, The Bellaire Police Department response time is fast. The police station is 1 block from his house, 2 blocks from his office. So do it elsewhere if you can. Just know one thing. They have the $ to have a full-blown investigation so you gotta be clean as (expletive)! Gloves coz of your prints are a must if you touch his car.
- "He might even go out of town with his kids coz its summertime. They have a house in Aspen, Colorado. It would be sooooo easy there. You can fly or drive -- up to you. Crime rate over there is low so a murder is unlikely. So if you catch him there and he dies there, the people will think the wife did the planning to kill him as revenge. That would be good."
Nugent claims prosecutors and the Houston FBI office know about the letter. Neither the FBI nor prosecutors would comment on any possible investigation. So far, Gaiser faces no new charges.
The judge in the case issued a gag order for all parties during a hearing following Nugent's news conference.
But could this latest twist in the case end with another surprise before Jeffrey Stern goes to trial? Several defense lawyers in Houston said if Gaiser is actually charged with trying to have Jeffrey Stern killed, the prosecution's star witness would lose credibility and the case against him could unravel before a jury is even seated.
"If they have more evidence or a smoking gun, then we haven't seen it," longtime defense attorney Rocket Rosen said. "We haven't heard about it."
Rosen said he thinks Jeffrey Stern will never go to trial. He admits he's a friend of Stern, but said he believes prosecutors should charge Gaiser with a new crime if her jailhouse letter is legitimate. If that happens, Rosen believes the charges against Jeffrey Stern will be dismissed.
"My gut feeling is 90 percent that DA Pat Lykos will do the right thing and dismiss the charges."
Jeffrey Stern's trial is scheduled to begin July 27.
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