Woman plotted husband's death over Snapchat assuming evidence would be deleted
| November 3rd 2019
They’d pledged their loyalty and devotion to the US Army, and to each other as man and wife.
Kemia and Tyrone Hassel were both soldiers and so understood what it took to put others first.
When they became parents to their two-year-old son, they vowed to protect him, too.
US Army Sgt Tyrone Hassel III had been destined for the military.
He was high-achieving, athletic and had a strong sense of right and wrong.
Tyrone, 23, had joined the Army in 2015 and showed such promise that he was quickly promoted.
His job and family meant everything to him.
Tyrone was married to Kemia, an Army Specialist and mother to their son.
Planning for murder
In 2017, Tyrone and Kemia, 22, were posted to South Korea.
While Tyrone worked hard for his country and was planning his family’s future, Kemia was making different plans.
She was coming up with a strategy that would get her exactly what she wanted.
Kemia was having an affair with another soldier, Jeremy Cuellar, 24, also based in South Korea.
They were sneaking around behind Tyrone’s back and plotting to be together.
But instead of just telling Tyrone, Kemia didn’t want to walk away from everything he had to offer.
They would need money for their new life.
Tyrone had an Army life insurance policy that totalled more than $400,000 that she wouldn’t be entitled to if they separated.
But what if Tyrone died before then?
Kemia and Jeremy were conspiring to kill Tyrone.
In order to avoid being traced, they started to communicate through Snapchat, because they wrongly believed the app’s temporary messages would be undetectable by police.
For months they sent messages to each other about how they were going to murder unsuspecting Tyrone.
When they were posted back to the US, they were all stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, and the mission stepped up a gear.
Kemia would make sure Tyrone was in the right place at the right time – and Jeremy would pull the trigger.
It was New Year’s Eve 2018, and Kemia and Tyrone were staying with Tyrone’s dad in St Joseph Township, Michigan.
They were on military leave for the festive season.
In the evening, Tyrone went to a family party, leaving Kemia at his dad’s house.
Before 11pm, he messaged Kemia to say he was coming back with a plate of food for her.
Kemia then messaged Jeremy and told him there was an opportunity for an ambush.
Tyrone left the party before the New Year rang in, and had almost reached the house when Jeremy shot him in the head and neck before disappearing.
Paramedics rushed to the scene, but Tyrone was pronounced dead at hospital.
Kemia played the grieving widow – she even allowed Tyrone’s family to comfort her.
But once investigators found out about her affair, they started to look closer.
It was discovered Kemia had made a number of internet searches after the killing.
One was ‘how to delete Snapchat’.
Another was ‘active duty soldier killed on New Year’s Eve’.
Kemia also looked up ‘what do I do after my house is paid off’.
Jeremy’s mobile placed him in the area.
He had no reason to be in Michigan.
Caught out in a lie
Kemia was brought in for questioning and after a long time denying any involvement in her husband’s murder, she confessed.
She talked calmly about how she’d been unhappy in her marriage, but didn’t want to divorce him because she wouldn’t be eligible for his life insurance policy.
She said she wanted to be with Jeremy and Tyrone stood in the way.
Jeremy was arrested and held on a $2.5 million bail.
His lawyer said it would be hard to pin the shooting on him with no witnesses.
And by the time the case came to trial, Kemia said she’d been coerced into confessing.
At the trial this year, Kemia’s defence continued to insist she’d been interrogated for so long she’d ‘broken down’ and been ‘manipulated’ into confessing.
They said Jeremy was the one responsible and had driven the killing.
‘She had an affair with Jeremy Cuellar,’ her lawyer said.
‘That does not prove that she was part of a plot to murder her husband.'
'Does it make her a bad wife?'
'Does it make her a person who lacks honour?'
'But that doesn’t prove a plot – that doesn’t prove intent.’
He said Kemia knew what Jeremy wanted to do, but didn’t believe he’d go through with it.
Unfortunately for Kemia, she had been recorded speaking to her mum from prison, saying she wasn’t forced to confess – she’d planned it.
The prosecution said Kemia was the ‘mastermind’.
That she’d given Jeremy constant updates to make sure he knew where Tyrone was so he could pull that trigger.
‘Kemia Hassel wasn’t happy with her life or with her husband,’ they said.
‘She devised a plan with her lover, Jeremy Cuellar, to have him murdered.'
'And in the end, you’ll see from the evidence it was all about her and what she wanted.’
The prosecution showed the videos of Kemia confessing to helping her lover find her husband.
She even shamelessly stayed with Tyrone’s father for two weeks after the murder.
Kemia did not take the stand.
The ultimate betrayal
After the three-day trial, the jury deliberated for just over an hour and found Kemia guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Afterwards, Tyrone’s dad, also called Tyrone, said listening to recordings of Kemia’s confession were ‘difficult’ because he didn’t hear any sympathy in her voice.
‘She’s the devil,’ he said.
He called his son a hero.
‘You want your kid to be better than you, and he accomplished that,’ he said.
In August this year, Kemia was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
She was given the opportunity to say something to her husband’s family, but chose not to.
Tyrone’s mum, Lashanda Jones, said she wanted Kemia to spend the rest of her days thinking about what she’d done.
‘How could you take the life of a man that gave you his last name?’ she asked her former daughter-in-law.
‘A last name that you didn’t deserve to have.'
'I hope every time you close your eyes, my son taps you on your shoulder and smiles.'
'Just to remind you that his life is not over, because he is still living in God, and you will be livingin hell until the day you die.’
Tyrone’s father called the killing the ‘ultimate betrayal’, and promised his grandson will know what an amazing father he had.
The judge was just as damning about Kemia’s future.
‘Ms Hassel, the road to redemption is long and arduous and you will spend the rest of your life walking it,’ she said.
In July this year, Jeremy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, as part of a deal to avoid a first-degree murder charge.
In exchange, he received a minimum of 65 years in prison.
The judge told him, ‘You chose money over another human being.’
‘I want to apologise to the family.'
'I was a fool for just taking her words and not really looking to see who he was,’ Jeremy told the court.
‘I also want to apologise to the Army.'
'It was the best thing that happened to me.'
'It was stupid, and that’s not me at all.'
'I was raised right, I just had issues within, my own demons, I know we all do.'
'But what she was telling me, I opened up to her and she played on it.'
'I shouldn’t have opened up to her.'
'I was a fool for trusting her.’
Kemia and Jeremy thought they’d found something special in each other, but they were both willing to settle down with a partner they knew would kill to get what they wanted.
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