Trial begins for soldier accused of helping murder her husband
BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- A solider is accused of helping murder her husband. Kemia Hassel is on trial for first degree murder.
Prosecutors say she had her boyfriend, Jeremy Cuellar, kill her husband Tyrone Hassel III while all three of them were on leave from their army base for the holidays.
The jury of seven men and seven women was selected at the Berrien County Courthouse Monday morning.
On the first day of trial, the prosecution and defense made their opening statements, and the prosecutor called four witnesses to testify.
Both attorneys in the case say Kemia Hassel’s videotaped statement is the key to the trial.
But her defense claims her confession was pressured, and she had nothing to do with her husband’s murder.
“You’ll find she had murder on her mind, and betrayal on her heart,” said Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli in the courtroom.
Pierangeli claims that soldier Kemia Hassel was not happy with her marriage and plotted to kill her husband, Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III– with her boyfriend Jeremy Cueller.
The state argues money was a major motive to the murder.
“She’d get that money, and a lot of it. Life insurance from the army, 400 thousand dollars,” said the prosecutor in the courtroom.
Each claim from the prosecution’s opening statement backed up apparently by Kemia’s own words in a videotaped confession.
Kemia’s lawyer, Chris Kessel, claims that Jeremy Cuellar is a psychopath and the mastermind behind the murder.
“Avoid another tragedy in finding the wrong person responsible for Tyrone Hassel’s death,” said Kessel in the courtroom.
Three of the witnesses on the first day were first responders on the night Hassel was murdered, but first on the stand was the victim’s father.
“It was hard. Any time I talk about my son I kind of tear up a little bit just talking about his life, his accomplishments and what happened that night,” Tyrone Hassel II the victim’s father.
Hassel’s family is hoping for a conviction and life without parole.
“Even still even that, it’s not going to make me feel any better because I’m still without my child,” he said.