MILLIONAIRE POISONED TO DEATH IN THE
PRIME OF LIFE
STORY ON TELEVISION: The arsenic murder of Jerry Sternadel and murder trial of his bookkeeper, Debra Lynn Baker, was aired on SNAPPED in 2005 and CURRENT AFFAIR in 1995.
Jerry Sternadel, a Texas
millionaire rancher, discovered his wife and bookkeeper had stolen thousands of dollars from him. A few weeks after he demanded the money back, he ate lunch with his
wife and bookkeeper, as he often did, and suddenly became deathly ill. While in the hospital,
doctors were mystified as to how an otherwise healthy, energetic man could
become so deathly ill. The dying man told everyone within earshot that his wife
and bookkeeper were killing him. His wife, Lou Ann, said her husband was
hallucinating from drugs the doctors were giving him. Lou Ann pretended to be a caring wife, as she and her close friend, Debra Baker,
allegedly continued feeding her husband food and drink laced with arsenic poison.
The millionaire knew he was dying, and knew who was killing
him. He begged for his life when he was in the hospital, "Please help me! Cut me loose! I don't
want to die! Those two women are killing me!" He valiantly fought for his life
while strapped down to his hospital bed with restraints on his hands and feet
and tubes in every orifice.
After Jerry Sternadel died, strapped down to his hospital bed, an anonymous caller tipped off the police about a $350,000 life insurance policy the widow stood to gain from the millionaire's death.
Death Certificate read: Patient was given arsenic over a
period of time until lethal amounts finally killed him.
The murder began a horrific fight with the devil for the millionaire's ex-wife, Jeannie Walker, as she pursued justice for her ex-husband and their two children.
MOTIVE: Old Fashioned Greed - $350,000 life insurance policy and million dollar estate.
the murder trial for Jerry Sternadel's bookkeeper, Debra Baker, the prosecutor painted a picture
not of a love triangle, but of a hate triangle. Jerry Sternadel hated his wife
and wanted to divorce her. Debra Baker hated her boss. Lou Ann Sternadel hated
the thought of losing her lavish lifestyle. The prosecutor's theory was that
Debra Baker killed Jerry Sternadel so he would not divorce Lou Ann. It was a shaky motive to be
sure, but it was hard for the jury to get around the fact that arsenic was
found in a storage shed rented by Debra Baker. The Clay County jury weighed the evidence and found Debra Baker guilty of First
Degree Murder. But, apparently, members of the jury felt the widow had made Debra Baker a scapegoat in the arsenic murder. They surprised everyone when they sentenced the convicted killer to Ten Years Probation with
a $10,000 fine. The district attorney and others said the sentence Debra Baker received was a "Travesty of Justice".
DYING DECLARATION: "Those two women stole $35,000 from me. They're trying to kill me!"
Despite her husband's dying testimony against her and the obvious motive, the widow, Lou Ann Sternadel, has not been arrested or tried for his murder.
"Fighting the Devil" was twenty years in the making. The 336 page book is loaded with 49 photographs.
The True Crime Story is dedicated to the sheriff who diligently pursued the case until his untimely death from lung cancer, the late and great Jake Bogard.