She must be freed or retried for the 1980 murder within 30 days, a judge ruled, but the Missouri AG has asked an appeals court to review the judge’s decision.

A judge declared Sandra Hemme, a 64-year-old Missouri woman with a history of mental illness, innocent of the 1980 murder of Patricia Jeschke. Hemme, who spent over four decades in prison, remains behind bars as Missouri’s top prosecutor requested a court to delay her release.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey plans to ask the state appeals court to review the judge’s ruling, which mandates Hemme’s release or retrial within 30 days. Hemme’s lawyers argued that evidence points to former St. Joseph police officer Michael Holman as the true perpetrator. Holman, now deceased, committed numerous crimes before and after Jeschke’s murder.

The 118-page petition, reviewed by NBC News, indicated Hemme’s trial attorney was inadequate, and prosecutors withheld exonerating evidence. Hemme’s attorneys, claiming she is the longest-known wrongly incarcerated woman in the U.S., sought her immediate release.

Despite her lawyers’ assurances that she poses no threat, the AG’s office cited her past statements about enjoying violence and a 1996 prison worker attack. The Buchanan County prosecuting attorney’s office has not commented on whether Hemme will be retried.

Sandra Hemme.
The woman said to be wrongfully convicted, Sandra Hemme

The petition revealed the sole evidence against Hemme was her own inconsistent and unreliable statements made under severe mental illness and heavy medication. Judge Ryan Horsman stated that no other evidence linked Hemme to the crime, while the Innocence Project highlighted the lack of witnesses or physical evidence connecting her to Jeschke’s murder.

Hemme’s conviction relied on false confessions made while she was forcibly medicated at a state psychiatric hospital. The Innocence Project accused St. Joseph police of concealing evidence implicating Holman, who was found using the victim’s credit card and had her earrings in his possession.

The brutal murder drew significant attention. Hemme wasn’t a suspect until two weeks later, when she showed up at a nurse’s home with a knife. Police took her back to the hospital, where she was heavily sedated and restrained. Her initial guilty plea in 1981 was rejected due to a lack of details, but after a recess, she provided more information, and the plea was accepted. This plea was later overturned, but she was convicted again in a 1985 trial.

Evidence against Holman included his false report of a stolen truck, seen near the crime scene, and his attempt to use Jeschke’s credit card. Holman, ultimately fired and deceased in 2015, failed to provide a credible alibi for the night of the murder. Despite finding Jeschke’s earrings in his home, police abruptly ended the investigation into Holman, and many details were never shared with Hemme’s attorneys.

Jurors at Hemme’s trial only heard about Holman’s possession of the credit card, not his extensive criminal behavior or proximity to Jeschke’s home the night of the murder. The judge concluded that the St. Joseph Police Department failed to properly investigate Holman as a suspect.