Linda Stermer, a Michigan girl accused of setting a fireplace to her household dwelling and murdering her husband, speaks out for the primary time in a interview with “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty, within the “The Death of Todd Stermer” airing Saturday, November 21 at 9/8c on CBS.
On January 7, 2007, Linda Stermer says she was doing laundry within the basement of her household’s dwelling when she heard her husband Todd let loose a chilling scream and ran upstairs to search out their front room engulfed in flames. Todd, says Linda, was in the course of the room making an attempt to combat the fireplace. Unable to get to him, she says she fled the burning home with no sneakers, jacket or cellphone.
In an interview for “48 Hours,” Erin Moriarty requested Linda Stermer, “You did not take into consideration calling 911?” “That wasn’t my first thought,” answered Linda. “My first thought was to get out. Todd’s gonna get out … So long as he is aware of I am out … he is gonna get out.”
The Stermer dwelling was in a rural space exterior Kalamazoo, Michigan, with an electrified fence surrounding the big property to assist preserve the couple’s 31 horses secure. With no cellphone, Linda says the one means for her to get assist that day was to leap into her husband’s van, which all the time had the keys inside, and drive to the closest neighbor. However simply as she was about to take off within the van, Linda says she noticed that her husband Todd had escaped the burning home, and that she bought out of the van to assist him. “He is leaping round and he is patting himself. His pores and skin is burnt terribly … I am screaming at him, get within the van … And he will not get within the van … I can not contact him … And, so, I get again within the van … And I overpassed him.”
In response to climate experiences for that day, there was some gentle rain and snow within the space. Linda says their driveway was so moist and muddy that it was arduous for her to get the van transferring. “The tires have been simply spinning … so I could not get any traction,” she says — however what occurred subsequent is one thing she nonetheless can’t clarify. “Do you know you had run over your husband,” requested Erin Moriarty. “No,” says Linda Stermer. Investigators would later discover Todd’s blood on the van’s entrance bumper and undercarriage. Linda had hit her husband together with his personal van.
Emergency staff tried to avoid wasting Todd Stermer, however he died on the scene from his burn accidents. Van Buren County Sheriff’s detectives investigated the fireplace and Todd’s dying for somewhat over two years. Then, on June 5, 2009, the prosecutor’s workplace felt it had sufficient proof to arrest Linda Stermer and cost her with arson and the homicide of her husband. Linda maintains she is harmless, however the couple’s sons say that over time they got here to really feel that their mom was responsible.
“What do you consider occurred,” Moriarty requested 28-year-old Trevor Stermer.
“Our mom murdered our father,” he answered. “She set the home on hearth, doused him in gasoline, then after the actual fact when he managed to get out of the home, she ran him over together with her van.”
The proof offered at trial was primarily circumstantial. Amongst different issues, a gasoline station clerk testified that she noticed Linda on the morning of the fireplace seemingly pumping gasoline right into a gasoline can in the back of her SUV. Her sons testified that when Linda bought dwelling from the gasoline station, she woke them and gave them cash to go to the films. A previously shut buddy testified that Linda had talked about eager to kill Todd by operating him over, and accused Linda of getting an affair with a coworker.
Linda’s protection countered with testimony from the brother of that former buddy, who instructed the jury that his sister has a historical past of psychiatric sickness and can’t be trusted. As for pumping gasoline right into a can that morning, Linda says it was chilly out and he or she went to the again of her SUV to get gloves to pump gasoline into her automotive. Nothing extra. She additionally insists that the explanation she despatched her sons to the films that day is that she and Todd have been within the throes of a heated argument. She was planning on leaving Todd that day, says Linda, and didn’t need her sons there to see it.
On January 13, 2010, the jury convicted Linda Stermer. A month later, Linda was sentenced to life in jail with out parole — however after serving almost 9 years, she was as soon as once more free, no less than briefly.
Erin Moriarty and I first met Linda Stermer and her new legal professional Wolfgang Mueller on the 2019 Innocence Community Convention. A federal decide had overturned Linda’s conviction in December of 2018 and set her free. Choose Arthur J. Tarnow declared that Linda didn’t get a good trial and stated he discovered prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective help of counsel.
The State of Michigan instantly filed an attraction to reinstate Linda’s conviction and put her again behind bars. Prosecutors declared that in the event that they misplaced, they might retry her.
On Could 15, 2020, the Sixth Circuit Court docket of Appeals dominated in favor of Linda Stermer and upheld Choose Tarnow’s choice to overturn her conviction. The Van Buren County Prosecutor’s workplace have since refiled homicide expenses in opposition to Stermer. Her new trial is scheduled to start on March 9, 2021.
In a household divided, Linda’s sons say they’ll testify in opposition to her and vow they’ll by no means converse to her once more. Their half-sisters — Linda’s daughters from a earlier marriage, Ashley and Brittany — consider their mom is harmless and say they’re praying that she stays free.
Judy Rybak is a producer for “48 Hours” | @JudyRybak