Twisted murder-for-hire case takes another turn

Attorney: Michelle Gaiser tried to hire hit-man to kill Jeffrey Stern

HOUSTON - A twisted murder-for-hire case has taken yet another turn.

Michelle Gaiser has admitted to hiring hit-men to kill Yvonne Stern, the wife of Jeffery Stern. Gaiser and Jeffrey Stern had an affair.

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

Gaiser has taken a plea deal for her solicitation of capital murder charge. Part of that plea includes testifying against Jeffrey Stern, who has also been accused of solicitation of capital murder. He is scheduled to go to trial on the charge on July 27.

Jeffrey Stern has denied any involvement in the plot. Yvonne Stern is standing by him.

According to Paul Nugent, Jeffrey Stern's defense attorney, Gaiser does want to testify. Nugent said Gaiser wrote a note to another jail inmate, offering $20,000 for the death of Jeffrey Stern.

Nugent read part of alleged note at a news conference on the couple's front lawn on Tuesday.

"It needs to look like he got robbed. If you plan on making him disappear, he cannot be found because they'll think it's a hit," Nugent said the note read. "Whatever you do, it must not look like a hit. It's going to be accidental death. Obviously, even a close-range shot didn't get rid of the wife."

Nugent said Gaiser gave the note to a female inmate awaiting trial on a bank robbery charge. Nugent said that inmate gave him the note on May 9 and he gave it to the FBI, which confirmed that Gaiser wrote it.

Nugent said he decided to go public with the note because, he said, the prosecutor in Jeffrey Stern's case refused to file charges against Gaiser.

"We ask the media and general public to keep in mind that defense attorneys are paid to advance the legal interests of their clients. Statements about the existence of an FBI investigation or the deliberations and actions of this office are unsubstantiated assertions, not verified facts," a statement from the Harris County District Attorney's Office read..

The Sterns said they are afraid of Gaiser, even with her being in jail.

"The family should not be held hostage in their own home because of gamesmanship by the prosecutor on the case," Nugent said. "That why we've been in contact with the leaders of the district attorney's office, and I'm confident the right thing will happen and she ultimately will be charged."

Nugent said he may ask to have the solicitation charge against Jeffrey Stern be dropped based on the new evidence.

Some attorneys said that the letter is a game-changer in Jeffrey Stern's case.

"I think it's a fatal blow," said Dan Cogdill, a defense attorney in Houston. "The state's position has always been that Ms. Gaiser is a puppet and Mr. Stern is the puppeteer. Well, not only have the strings been cut, but the puppet is ordering another killing. I think it's a fatal blow."

"The fact the prosecution witness wrote this doesn't necessarily mean this case is dead in the water," said Phil Hilder, another Houston attorney. "The prosecution and the judge are going to have to judge the credibility of this communication."

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