Key player in alleged murder-for-hire plot pleads guilty

HOUSTON - Another twist played out in a Houston courtroom Friday in the murder-for-hire case that captured national headlines.

Michelle Gaiser, who admitted to hiring hit-men to kill her ex-lover's wife, plead guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Yvonne Stern's attorney, Chip Lewis, said prosecutors agreed to the 20-year sentence even though Stern was originally told that Gaiser would get no less than 40 years in prison.

Stern and her attorney were in court to protest the plea deal.

"I'm completely offended that the district attorney's office would sell out to this degree," Stern's attorney, Chip Lewis, said.

Stern took the stand and read a victim's impact statement.

"It is near impossible for me to put into words the pain and suffering this animal has caused me and my family," Stern said. "Despite the fact that I had never met this monster, much less attempted to harm her in any way, she hired at least three different killers to end my life."

Stern said the attempts on her life will haunt her and her children forever.

"My children are afraid to let me out of their sight in fear of what this murderer will do to us if given a chance," Stern said. "She has robbed my children of the innocence of youth."

Lewis sent KPRC the following statement Thursday night.

"Mrs. Stern will be in the 262nd District Court tomorrow morning to give her victim impact statement relative to Michelle Gaiser's plea of guilty. Mrs. Stern feels further victimized by Pat Lykos' crooked deal. ADA Kari Allen assured Mrs. Stern that she would not offer Gaiser anything less than 40 years in prison. Despite that promise, Lykos has again sold out to appease her longtime friend and ardent political supporter, James Stafford (Gaiser's attorney). Stafford strenuously and repeatedly objected to Jim Leitner's well-reasoned decision to dismiss the solicitation cases against Jeff Stern. Given the multitude of honest, veteran prosecutors ratifying Mr. Leitner's decision, Lykos could not overrule this decision, so she did the next best thing for Stafford - she threw him the bone of an unconscionable deal for his client. In court, Mrs. Stern will address the continued pain and suffering that this cold-blooded criminal has suffered upon her and her family. She will request that the Honorable Judge reject this crooked deal given Gaiser's multiple attempts on her life and Gaiser's habitual criminal acts."

"From the day she was arrested, Ms. Gaiser cooperated with investigators," Harris County prosecutor Kari Allen said. "Critically, she was our only source for the identity of the gunman who shot Mrs. Stern."

Lykos said she trusts Allen's judgment and supports her decision to offer a 20-year plea deal.

"Today's plea deal was her decision, made after a careful review and thoughtful deliberation of the facts surrounding the Stern affair," Lykos said.

Gaiser's attorney said he thought 20 years was too long.

"Our team felt like she should have gotten a lot less time, but Michelle wanted closure. She want that to be behind her," defense attorney James Stafford said.

Charges were dropped Tuesday against Jeffrey Stern, who was once accused in the murder-for-hire plot involving his former lover and wife.

Three attempts were made on Yvonne Stern's life. She was shot in the abdomen during one of those attempts in May 2010.

Yvonne Stern has filed a civil case against Gaiser. Yvonne Stern said she will donate any money she receives out of that suit to first responders, whom she credits for saving her life.

"If not for the actions of good Samaritans, police officers, EMT personnel and the nurses/doctors at Ben Taub, I would not be here today," Yvonne Stern said.

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