• Did Real Killer Go Free?
  • March 26, 2013
  • Law Firm: Law Offices of Dennis P. OConnell - Orange Office
  • I litigated a special circumstance murder trial in the Orange County Superior Court in February of this year. My client, whom I will always believe was completely innocent, was TJ Garrick and he was charged as a co-conspirator along with Sandra Jesse, Thomas Aehlert, and Brett Schrauben.

    The murder happened in 1998 in Placentia California. Sandra Jesse contacted her son, Tom Aehlert and his frient Brett Schrauben to kill her husband of 18 years Jack Jesse. At the time Jack Jesse was ill with cancer. Schrauben agreed to kill Jack for a fee of $50,000.00. Jack Jesse was found stabbed to death in his home, and Schrauben was paid his money. In 2007 just before his trial was about to start Mr. Schrauben came forward and claimed for the first time that my client TJ Garrick was the actual killer. In order to gain the cooperation of Mr. Schrauben, the Orange County District Attorney's Office allowed Mr. Schrauben to plead guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge and he was released on Valentine's Day 2007 after serving 515 days in custody.

    Mr. Schrauben first testified against Tom Aehlert and his mother Sandra Jesse. That jury ended up hanging 11-1 for guilty. After a mistrial was declared, Tom Aehlert came forward and said he could help the prosecution also. He was allowed to plead guilty to a second degree murder in exchange for his cooperation.

    Sandra Jesse was re-tried and convicted after both Brett Schraueben and her son Tom Aehlert testifed against her. She was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

    My client was brought to trial in February of 2013. Both Brett Schrauben and Tom Aehlert were called as prosecution witnesses. Schrauben testified that he dropped my client, TJ Garrick, off at the Jesse home and Garrick entered the home and killed Jack Jesse. Tom Aehlert testified that on three seperate occasions Mr. Garrick confessed to being the murderer to him. Mr. Aehlert stated that no one else ever heard these confessions to murder and he never told anyone about them.

    On cross examination Mr. Aehlert admitted the he had previously named two other innocent persons as the killer of Jack Jesse. He further stated that it was part of the "plan" with Brett Schrauben, to name an innocent third person as the killer to divert suspicion from themselves.

    My client testified and proclaimed his innocence. After two days of diliberation, on Valentine's Day 2013, the jury agreed with TJ Garrick he was aquitted of all charges.

    This, of course begs the question, is the real killer a free man?