Murder by Eye Drops: High Profile Waukesha Trial

October 22, 2023
Photo via Adobe View the livestream of Jessy Kurczewski murder and theft trial in Waukesha County Circuit Court below.

Kurczewski Allegedly Murdered and Stole $290,210 from Lynn Hernan of Pewaukee

On Monday, October 23, the murder trial of Jessy Kurczewski began in Waukesha County Circuit Court. If you’re a true crime aficionado, this is another high-profile local trial you may want to follow. Kurczewski, 39, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide for allegedly using eye drops to poison Lynn Hernan, 62, in her Pewaukee home. She is also charged with two felonies for allegedly stealing $290,210 from Hernan. The alleged murder occurred on October 3, 2018.

The trial is live-streaming on YouTube via Law & Crime Network and Court TV. You can find the latest stream by going to YouTube and accessing those networks’ channels and/or searching for “Kurczewski trial” or “Eye Drop Murder.”

Background About the Case

About the Alleged Murder

Kurczewski was a friend and caregiver to Hernan and had keys to her Pewaukee home. She called first responders to the Pewaukee home on October 3, 2018, for assistance when she claimed to have found Hernan unconscious. Police found Hernan in a recliner with prescription medication bottles nearby and crushed pills on both her chest and a nearby plate. They initially assumed this was a drug overdose, but the Waukesha County Medical Examiner determined Hernan had a fatal level of tetrahydrozoline, the main ingredient in several brands of eye drops, in her system. This high level was determined to be impossible if the eyedrops were only used in the eyes. 

Kurczewski has alleged that Hernan was suicidal and has denied killing her, pleading not guilty in August of 2021. Friends of Hernan have disputed that she was suicidal. 

About the Trial

The Trial began October 23, 2023, and is scheduled to run every weekday until November 28, except for the Thanksgiving holiday. Judge Jennifer Dorow is presiding over the trial, as she was in Waukesha’s last high-profile trial of Darrell Brooks, the notorious Waukesha Christmas Parade killer, a year ago. The lead prosecutor is Deputy District Attorney Abbey Nickolie, who has been a prosecutor since 2013. The defense team is led by criminal defense attorney Donna Kuchler of Kuchler & Cotton in Waukesha, who specializes in sensitive crimes such as child abuse and sexual assault and defended Morgan Geyser in the Slender Man stabbing case. 

Who is Jessy Kurczewski?

Kurczewski has been incarcerated since she was charged with the three felonies on June 7, 2021, under a $1 million cash bond. According to court records, she has attempted numerous times to get her bond reduced to a signature bond or a lower cash bond amount, but Judge Dorow has ruled to maintain the $1 million bond. 

Kurczewski was living in Franklin at the time of her arrest and has been held in Taycheedah Correctional Institution and the Waukesha County Jail since her arrest. While in Taycheedah, she allegedly confessed to a fellow inmate that she had killed or contributed to the death of Hernan. 

A review of Wisconsin Circuit Court records revealed that Kurczewski pled guilty in 2011 in Milwaukee County to two counts of felony “misappropriate ID info – obtain thing of value” (aka identity theft) and one count of “forgery – writings or objects” for which she was sentenced to one year in state prison and three years of extended supervision. Several counts of felony bail jumping and one count of misdemeanor “resisting or obstructing an officer” were dismissed as part of a plea deal. 

In addition, there is an open probate case in which a last will and testament by Lynn Hernan, listing Kurczewski as the beneficiary, is pending the outcome of this criminal trial. In pre-trial hearings, Judge Dorow ruled in favor of allowing some prior acts to be included in the trial and others to be excluded, but we do not yet have confirmation regarding whether her 2011 convictions will be allowed as evidence. 

According to the Wisconsin criminal code, if convicted during this trial, Kurczewski faces potential penalties of:

  • Life imprisonment for the class A felony of 1st-degree intentional homicide
  • A fine not to exceed $100,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 40 years, or both, for the class C felony of theft – movable property greater than $100,000
  • A fine not to exceed $25,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or both, for the class G felony of theft – movable property between $10,000 and $100,000
Other Murder by Eye Drops Cases

This case is not the first in which common eye drops were allegedly used to commit murder. On July 21, 2018, Stephen Clayton of Clover, South Carolina, died of tetrahydrozoline poisoning. His wife, Lana Sue Clayton, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in January 2020. She allegedly poisoned him with eye drops over a period of three days, but claimed she only wanted to make him ill. In 2016, she had shot him in the back of the head with a crossbow and claimed it was an accident. Apparently, Stephen believed her, to his detriment. This murder occurred just 10 weeks prior to the death of Lynn Hernan.

On September 23, 2018, paramedic Joshua Hunsucker of Mount Holly, North Carolina, allegedly killed his wife, Stacy Robinson Hunsucker, by poisoning her with tetrahydrozoline eye drops. Prosecutors claim he was inspired by the Clayton case. He was arrested in December 2019 and is awaiting trial. 

Eye Drops as a Murder Weapon?

According to, tetrahydrozoline is the key ingredient in numerous eye drops designed to reduce redness, including Visine, Opti-Clear, Vision Clear, Murine Plus, and others. It is a vasoconstrictor that shrinks swollen blood vessels in the eyes to reduce redness from minor irritants such as allergies. We were unable to find any warnings against ingesting these medications on or the individual medication websites. 

However, we did find warnings on several poison control websites indicating that ingesting tetrahydrozoline can cause difficulty breathing, slow heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, seizures and coma, among other symptoms. These sites warn to keep eye drops away from small children and pets. Clearly, you should also keep them away from anyone who may want to harm you. 

Story updated November 1, 2023