When police officers arrived at 62-year-old Lynn Hernan's home in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, in 2018, they found her dead, seated in her living room recliner next to a table filled with prescription pills with what appeared to be crushed medication on her chest, according to a police report. The case was initially ruled a drug overdose.
But two years and eight months after Hernan's death, investigators have announced a stunning new development. A woman who claimed to be Hernan's friend and caregiver is now facing charges of killing her by allegedly spiking Hernan's water bottle with a lethal dose of eye drops and staging the victim's home to make appear to be accidental or a suicide, according to a criminal complaint filed in Waukesha County Court.
The suspect, Jessy R. Kurczewski, 37, is also accused of defrauding Hernan of nearly $300,000 and allegedly blowing most of that money on gambling at casinos and expensive gifts, including spa treatments for friends and acquaintances, according to the criminal complaint.
"Kurczewski had a motive, the method and the opportunity to intentionally cause the death" of Hernan, the criminal complaint states.
Kurczewski appeared in court on Monday, where she was read the charges against her. She is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony theft, according to online court records.
She was arrested on Friday and is being held on $1 million bail at the Waukesha County Jail, according to jail records.
Kurczewski was represented at her court hearing by the State Public Defender's Office. A spokesperson for the office had no immediate comment when reached by ABC News.
An obituary published in the Wisconsin State Journal described Hernan as a lifelong Wisconsin resident who was a hairstylist and owned her own salon.
“If you knew Lynn, her other passions, without a doubt, were the sun, water, entertaining and cooking, but most of all Bette Davis, black-and-white movies and the Wizard of Oz," reads the obituary, which listed no survivors.
On Oct. 3, 2018, Kurczewski called the police to report that she went to Hernan's home and found her unresponsive and not breathing, according to the complaint. Kurczewski allegedly told police that she believed Hernan was suicidal because of her debilitating health conditions, the complaint states.
"Kurczewski stated that (Hernan) was constantly worrying if she would end up having to leave her home for medical reasons," according to the complaint.
The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office reopened the investigation roughly three months after Hernan's death when Waukesha County Medical Examiner Dr. Linda Biedrzycki got back a toxicological report showing Hernan had a fatal dose of tetrahydrozoline, the main ingredient in over-the-counter eye drops, in her system.
"Dr. Biedrzycki did advise that Tetrahydrozoline could be considered poisonous to the human body and it would be impossible to have that level of Tetrahydrozoline in the blood just by using it in the eyes," according to the criminal complaint.
In September 2019, Biedrzycki dismissed suicide or accidental overdose as potential causes of Hernan's death and ruled the case a homicide.
When detectives confronted Kurczewski with the toxicological results from Hernan's autopsy, she denied being involved in any foul play, according to the criminal complaint. But for the first time, Kurzewski then allegedly told investigators that Hernan would purchase large quantities of eye drops and that the day before Hernan died she saw her mixing the eye drops with vodka and drinking it, the complaint alleges.
In a subsequent interview with investigators, Kurczewski allegedly confessed to pouring six bottles of Visine eye drops into a water bottle and giving it to Hernan to help her die by suicide.
"Kurczewski states she knows she's probably going to prison for the rest of her life for helping (Hernan) do what she wanted," the complaint states.
She is scheduled to return to court on June 25 for a preliminary hearing.
This is not the first case in which someone has been accused of using eye drops to poison someone.
In January 2020, a South Carolina woman pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and tampering with a food or drug in the fatal poisoning of her husband with drinks laced with eye drops that she gave him over the course of three consecutive days. Lana Sue Clayton was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In 2019, a paramedic in Mount Holly, North Carolina, Joshua Lee Hunsucker, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after an autopsy determined his wife, Stacy, was poisoned by eye drops, authorities said. Hernan has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.