Leisa Hurst’s Blog

Missing 01-22-2009

Update: Solicit to Commit Murder Charges

Posted by findleisa on March 8, 2012


To update everyone on Jeami’s charged for solicit to commit murder… READINESS Hearing is set for tomorrow March 9, 2012 @ 9:00 A.M. and JURY TRIAL is scheduled for March 19, 2012 @ 9:00 P.M. Location: Kern County Superior Court – Metropolitan Division, 1415 Truxtun Ave. Bakersfield, CA 93301.

Posted in General Info, Jeami Chiapulis | 10 Comments »

48 Hours Mystery: Body of Lies – Full Story

Posted by findleisa on January 19, 2011

48-hours

48 Hours Mystery: Body of Lies

Jeami Chiapulis seemed to have lived quite the amazing life – highlighted by military combat, from Afghanistan to Iraq. He even had a photo of the elite Ranger unit he had served in.

It all appealed to single mom Leisa Hurst and her father, Lynn.

“I was impressed with him and everything else because of my military background,” Lynn Hurst tells “48 Hours Mystery” correspondent Maureen Maher.

“He seemed like a very nice man,” Leisa’s mother, Debbie Welch, agrees.

A man who sensed Leisa’s kids, Ashlyn and Tyler, were the way to her heart.

“He knew like our jokes and stuff,” Ashlyn says.

“He’d give us gifts and stuff,” Tyler adds. “And he’d get stuff for mom.”

Asked if his daughter was in love, Lynn Hurst replies, “Yeah. Oh, she was.”

MISSING: 24 HOURS

Leisa was a graduate student living in Barstow, Calif. The mother of two young girls had lived 31 years without making an enemy. That’s why, in the hours after she went missing in January 2009, it made no sense at all.

Leisa grew up surrounded by love and the safety and security of close family. Those were the gifts her parents, Lynn and Debbie, and her older brother, Valden, gave the little girl.

“[She was] happy-go-lucky, always smiling,” Lynn says. “I think what really set her off her personality was her deep blue eyes.”

Leisa’s parents describe her as more of a tomboy than a girlie girl. “She played baseball,” Lynn says. “She was very good.”

Home was the endless, starkly beautiful desert, outside Barstow. Lynn was a Vietnam veteran; a working man. Debbie worked as a medical assistant. “It was a good place to raise kids,” she tells Maher, smiling.

Debbie says her outgoing daughter wasn’t a kid for very long. “And then [she] just blossomed into a beautiful woman, I thought.”

Leisa was an adventurous teenager and struggled to manage all the new-found attention from the boys. She was unlucky at love, starting with her high school boyfriend, Jesse Pouvaranukoah.

“So when she came home and told you she was pregnant what was your reaction?” Maher asks Debbie.

“I wanted to strangle her, but I mean there’s not much you can do,” she replies. “You realize you gotta be there for your kids.”

Baby Ashlyn was born.

“I told her I’d be there,” Lynn says. “And I was.”

Leisa’s family was incredibly supportive and the teenager worked hard at being a good mom even after she and her boyfriend broke up.

“She was a little scared at first, but realized she was bringing a life into the world, and she was accepting it,” Debbie says. “She was really proud of [Ashlyn].”

There would be another relationship with cross country truck driver Ruben DeLeon. It was serious, lasting almost 5 years.

Leisa got pregnant again, with daughter Tyler. Leisa and Ruben seemed ready to be a real family.

“I thought they were going to get married,” Lynn explains. “I thought Ruben and Leisa were gonna get settled down and have a family.”

Leisa even bought a wedding dress. But, as her mother explains, that didn’t work out.

“She got really upset and it tore her apart,” Debbie tells Maher. She says Leisa was so devastated, she cut up the dress with scissors.

So in 2005, Leisa became a single mother again trying to make it all work for Ashlyn, then 8, and Tyler, who was 5.

“She was our mother and took care of us. And she taught us a lot,” says Tyler.

Under the desert sky, the three girls settled down and began repeating the precious rituals of family that Leisa had learned as a child.

“I don’t think you could find a better person for her situation, raising two girls,” Lynn says. “They were very well brought up.”

Leisa Hurst, along with her two daughters, was finally growing up. She would attend Barstow College, with plans to become a teacher.

But Debbie says life without a partner was lonely and difficult for Leisa. “She really wanted to get married, I think, and settle down and have a family – someone to actually be there for her and be part of her life.”

Then, in October 2006, at Barstow College, she met fellow student Jeami Chiapulis.

“She said, “OK, do you want to go meet my new boyfriend?” Tyler recalls.

Jeami Chiapulis was anything but a typical student. He was a 34-year-old war hero and a cancer survivor. He had a big house, a big heart – and as far as Leisa could tell – he was single and available.

“Obviously, she wanted him to be in her life,” says Debbie.

And Jeami wanted Leisa in his life. She graduated and they were set to finally become a family. The kids and their single mom were thrilled.

“I really thought she had found the right person,” says Lynn.

So in January 2009, a new life seemed to be truly dawning for Leisa and her two girls. That’s why what happened next was such a surprise to Leisa’s family.

Leisa’s abandoned car had been found 50 miles south in the town of Hesperia.

“The police department came and knocked on my door,” Lynn says. “The windows down, the keys in the ignition. I say, ‘That’s not Leisa,’” Lynn tells Maher.

“My heart sunk,” says Debbie.

A massive search for Leisa Hurst would soon begin. And another search would also start to find out who Jeami Chiapulis really was.

When Leisa Hurst vanished on Jan. 22, 2009, and police told her parents that her car had been found abandoned, her parents knew something was very wrong.

“The car was in a place that it shouldn’t have been put,” says Leisa’s mother, Debbie Welch.

Leisa’s father, Lynn Hurst, immediately called her apartment and learned from his granddaughters, Ashlyn, 12, and Tyler, 9, that Leisa had not come home the previous evening.

“She’d never leave her kids that long,” Debbie explains. “It would just be school and then home.”

So where could Leisa be? The last person to have contact with her was her boyfriend, Jeami Chiapulis, who on that Thursday afternoon of Leisa’s disappearance had picked up her daughter, Tyler, from school, while Ashlyn walked home alone.

“I said, ‘Where’s Mom?’ And he said, ‘college,’” says Tyler.

Chiapulis told Tyler that her mother was at the University of La Verne in Victor Valley, where Leisa occasionally took graduate classes.

That night, Chiapulis got the girls settled in and he even picked up dinner.

“We just started like doing normal stuff, like homework,” Tyler says. “And then he left.”

Leisa rarely left the girls home alone, but when she did, she would always call to speak with them.

“Would she have gone out with girlfriends and partied all night?” Maher asks.

“There’s no way,” Debbie replies. “Leisa’s just too responsible. …She loved those kids.”

And that’s when her two little girls got scared.

“When it was 5:00 in the morning, I started freaking out,” says Ashlyn.

Detective Keith Libby from the Barstow Police Department opened the investigation into the disappearance of Leisa Hurst.

“Her oldest daughter is the age of my youngest son. So it was pretty difficult,” Libby says of the case.

From the very beginning, everything about Leisa’s case was suspicious – from the location where her car was found to what her boyfriend, Jeami Chiapulis, told Det. Libby the first time they met.

“She had no connection to that area,” Libby tells Maher. “…He was saying that they weren’t actually engaged.”

“Was he basically denying that they had a relationship?” Maher asks.
“Oh, absolutely.”

In fact, Chiapulis dropped a bombshell, telling Det. Libby he was actually married to a woman in the Army who lived out of state.

“It just didn’t make sense,” Libby says. “When I walked out of the house I was thinking this guy’s up to something…”

That was no surprise to Jaime Tatro, a woman who dated Chiapulis a lifetime ago.

“I think it’s very possible that he hurt somebody,” says Tatro, who lives in Georgia, 2,000 miles away from Leisa Hurst. Had the two young women ever met, Jamie would have cautioned Leisa to stay far away from Chiapulis.

It was 1992, and love at first sight, says Jaime. “I was a 16-year-old girl… impressionable, young… He was beautiful, rock star. Long, long hair.”

Chiapulis said he played the guitar and had a band. Asked if any of that was true, Jaime says, “I never even seen him pick up a guitar.”

The two dated for over a year and had a child together. But the more time Jaime Tatro spent with Chiapulis, the more lies she caught him in.

“…it was all coming out who he was and who I’d been with all that time,” she tells Maher.

Who is he, really?

“I don’t even think that he knows. …he will tell a lie and he will try to live it out, and after a while you don’t know what’s true anymore.

When Tatro broke off their relationship, Chiapulis drifted west and dropped off the radar until 2002, when he joined the United States Army as an infantryman based in Hawaii. He eventually settled in Barstow, Calif.

Science major Joyce Fransson remembers meeting Chiapulis in 2005, when he enrolled at Barstow College.

“Back then, he was very popular, everyone liked him,” Joyce tells Maher. “He was in my biology class… and he had a lot of charisma.”

He also told his new classmate he was a war hero. “He told me he was a Green Beret in the Army for 14 years and he was medically discharged from war wounds.”

While Chiapulis bragged to all about his war record, there was something he kept secret from everyone – the fact that he had a wife. In 2006, Chiapulis had married Army Lt. Col. Katherine Taylor. The couple shuttled between Barstow and her base in Texas.

“She had done some time in Iraq,” Libby explains. “And that she was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.”

With his wife away, Libby says Chiapulis had ample time to lead his double life.

“While she was deployed he was going to community college in Barstow College… he also was establishing relationships with several different women,” he says.

Including Joyce Fransson, who became much more than a friend.

“He told me he was single. He treated me like a queen,” Joyce tells Maher.
So not only was there Katherine, his wife, and Joyce – it was around this time that Chiapulis also began dating Leisa Hurst.

“Jeami Chiapulis was playing the field with many women,” says Libby.

While it is likely that neither his wife nor Leisa knew anything about the others, Joyce says Chiapulis had mentioned Leisa to her… describing Leisa as a student who had been harassing him for a date.

Over time, Leisa’s mother, Debbie, had begun to suspect something was not right with her daughter’s fiance.

“I kept telling her… ‘There’s something wrong,’” Debbie tells Maher. “‘He’s gonna hurt you.’ And we had a talk about that before all this happened.”

She says Leisa would tell her, “Mom, things are gonna be fine… we’re getting married.”

And when her daughter vanished…a mother’s intuition turned to dread.

MISSING: 3 DAYS

The evidence was piling up. When detectives searched Chiapulis’ house, they hit pay dirt – Home Depot receipts listing items Chiapulis had just purchased, including bleach, duct tape, gloves, a pickaxe, shovel and a large trash barrel.

“It doesn’t take, you know, Scotland Yard to figure out that those are items that could be used to get rid of a body,” notes Libby.

There was the marriage and the receipts and there would be one other bizarre discovery in Chiapulis’ trash – a used condom.

“It just seemed disgusting to me the way he answered it,” Libby says. “He said, ‘Well, that’s Joyce.’”

Chiapulis was with Joyce Fransson the night Leisa disappeared.

“And the last thing he said to me was, ‘Promise never to tell anybody, no matter what happens, in your life’” Joyce tells Maher.

“They had sworn to take it to their graves,” says Libby.

Four days into the investigation of Leisa Hurst’s disappearance, Detective Keith Libby knew he had his man: Jeami Chiapulis. So did Leisa’s mother.

“In my gut, I kind of felt it was Jamie,” says Debbie Welch.

But even with the discovery of Chiapulis’ marriage and the receipts showing his purchases for duct tape, gloves, a pickaxe and shovel, there was still no body.
“I was thinking definitely foul play,” Libby says. “I was thinking he could have killed her.”
Desperate for answers, they focused on the woman Chiapulis had told police he was with the night Leisa disappeared. Like Leisa Hurst, Chiapulis had promised to marry Joyce Fransson.

“I didn’t think there was anyone else,” Joyce tells Maher. “He told me that was his heart’s desire.”
But that is not what Joyce told Det. Libby when he interviewed her just four days after Leisa disappeared.
“She said she hadn’t seen him in over a year,” Libby says. “It took my pointing out to her that we’d found a condom and it might have her DNA evidence on it for her to say, ‘OK, I was there on Thursday night. And I had sex with him.’”
That is all Joyce would tell police. She failed to mention the night that Chiapulis had called her in a panic with an odd request: Could she help him get rid of a car. It also happened to be the very same night Leisa Hurst went missing.

Chiapulis said he needed to help a friend who had fallen behind on car payments. He needed someplace to dump the car so it would appear that it had been stolen.
“I never had a reason to distrust him,” says Joyce.
Joyce had Chiapulis follow her to the town of Hesperia – to a neighborhood she said had a bad reputation for crime. They left the car on a roadway with the windows down and the key in the ignition. After ditching the car, Joyce and Chiapulis drove back to his house where they had sex, and according to Joyce, that’s when he told her a truly unbelievable story.

“He told me that he had family in the Mafia and they had recently delivered him a package,” Joyce explains. “And he was being threatened to get rid of it immediately… It was a trash can… a sealed trash can with duct tape.”

So now, just hours after dumping a car, Joyce and Chiapulis then drive to a remote part of the desert where, she says, Chiapulis spent hours digging a hole to dump that mysterious package.

“You never saw what was in there?” Maher asks Joyce.

“No,” she replies. “I was in the car. I stayed there the whole time that he dug the hole. He kept telling me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’”

Joyce claims she was too scared and too confused to say no.

“Joyce, this is crazy. Did you not say, ‘No way?’ What was going through your mind?” asks Maher.

“I did say that to him,” she replies. “But I didn’t know what else to believe or what to do.”

“And did you wonder what might have been in the trashcan?” Did you think Mafia, trash can, body?”

“Everything crossed my mind.”

That is except for telling Det. Libby what she knew.

“I was scared,” Joyce says of her interrogation. “When they said there was a missing person I just totally froze. …I panicked.”
And with no physical evidence to tie Chiapulis directly to Leisa’s disappearance, the investigation came to a halt.

But Libby was about to get help from an unlikely investigator, Leisa’s brother, Valden, who had gone to Hesperia looking for his sister just hours after they discovered she was missing.
“Valden had recovered a pair of orange rubber gloves and a plastic shower cap… lying in the roadway,” Libby says. “The important thing he did was he took a photograph of them. A nice, clear, digital photograph which showed the condition that they were found.”

Valden handed the cap and gloves over to Chiapulis.

“Whether it was intentional or otherwise, he never mentioned to Jeami Chiapulis that he took the photo,” says Libby.

Chiapulis would turn them over to police 5 hours later. It wouldn’t take long for the detective to make a startling discovery – “He switched these around.”

Chiapulis had actually given police a different pair of gloves and a different colored cap. But why?
“One of the biggest items of evidence, was those gloves and the shower cap that were found near Leisa’s car, and the fact that they had been tampered with and that he had done something to try to avoid detection while driving the car, and then trying to avoid prosecution by destroying the evidence,” Libby explains.

And with that, a critical piece of the puzzle fell into place: the Home Depot receipts and Chiapulis’ bizarre double life. Now Det. Libby felt he could make a strong case against Jeami Chiapulis.
“We obviously knew we that there were gonna be some challenges without her body,” he admits. “However, we were confident that we had a good case circumstantially.”
Libby would get no help from Chiapulis, who was no longer talking because he had committed himself to a local psychiatric ward.
“Do you think he was just trying to set up an excuse?” Maher asks Libby.
“He’s probably trying to buy time by being in the hospital,” he replies, “…to set up an insanity defense.”
MISSING: 21 DAYS

Three weeks after Leisa Hurst disappeared, and on the same day Chiapulis checked out of the mental ward and into a motel, police moved in.
Jeami Chiapulis was arrested and charged with Leisa’s murder. But where was Leisa?
“I felt that his arrest might shake loose some information … leading to the whereabouts of Leisa Hurst,” says Libby.
Leisa’s family was already dealing with the painful reality that she would likely not be found alive, but they still desperately wanted to bring her home.
“We went out looking for her. And we kept looking for her,” says Debbie.
Chiapulis, however, remained silent. Soon, the entire community would join in the search… hundreds of volunteers canvassed the vast California desert looking for Leisa.
“This is almost the perfect place to bury a body,” Maher notes while flying over the desert with Det. Libby.

“If you just took the area that we’re looking at and you tell somebody to ‘go look for a body,’ then it’s just virtually impossible if it’s buried and concealed well,” he says.

To find Leisa, investigators might be forced to make a deal with the one person who knew where she was.

While the community searched for one of its own, Leisa Hurst’s family prayed that they would find the young woman they all loved.

“It just isn’t fair,” her mother, Debbie Welch says. “I need closure and so do my grandkids and family.”

Initially, right after he was arrested, Jeami Chiapulis remained silent over the whereabouts of Leisa Hurst. And without her body, Prosecutor Sean Daugherty could not seek the death penalty.

Asked how certain he was that Chiapulis killed Leisa, Daugherty replies, “I’m absolutely certain without a doubt.”

But Leisa’s loved ones had their own ideas about justice.

“He shouldn’t be able to be alive,” says Leisa’s daughter, Ashlyn.

Asked what she would like to have done, Debbie says, “Tie him down just leave him there.”

The truth was Leisa Hurst, who thought she had found the man of her dreams, had actually encountered a nightmare.

“He’s manipulative and diabolical,” Libby explains. “Jeami Chiapulis had built a life that didn’t actually exist, that he was a war hero, that he was a combat veteran. Later, I found out that he’d never seen any type of combat. He wasn’t a Ranger at all.”

“Did he tell women that he had cancer?” Maher asks.

“Yes. He never had cancer,” Libby says. “He would also come across as ‘I care. I’m the man you’re looking for in your life. I’m a good listener.’”

“And was he any of those things?”

“Not at all… I don’t know that he can ever tell the truth.”

With Chiapulis keeping quiet, there was little hope of ever finding Leisa’s body. Still, District Attorney Daugherty thought he could make his case for murder and get Chiapulis locked up for life.

“I thought it was convincing and compelling enough to take to a jury and go… this all points in one direction,” says Daugherty.

Getting Chiapulis convicted of murder was key, but so was bringing Leisa Hurst back to her family. To do so, Daugherty was forced to make a deal with the devil: In exchange for a reduced sentence, Chiapulis would admit to killing Leisa. But even more important, he would have to reveal where in the vast, hot, unforgiving desert he had buried her body.

MISSING: 260 DAYS

“When he brought us out here we were walking, he was shackled,” Libby says. “Had he not told us, we wouldn’t have found her. We were searching 50 miles south of here.”

After hours of digging under the hot sun, detectives finally found Leisa’s body as Chiapulis looked on.

“There was no remorse. There was no emotion,” Libby says of Chiapulis. “It was a feeling of relief that we’d found her. And it was also a feeling of anger that we didn’t find her without his help.”

On Oct. 8, 2009, Leisa Hurst was finally brought home.

“It was very important to me because we could pay our respects to her,” says an emotional Lynn Hurst of his daughter.

Jeami Chiapulis got his reduced sentence – only 15 years to life in a California prison.

“That’s not justice,” says Leisa’s mother, Debbie Welch.

“I had to look at the benefits of recovering the body versus a life sentence,” says Daugherty. When asked if it was worth it to offer the plea, he says, “Yes. It was worth it.”

But at least one mystery remained: Chiapulis admitted to killing Leisa, but just how had she died? It was only after Chiapulis was sentenced that he agreed to tell police his version of what had happened, claiming it was an accidental drowning.

Det. Libby: And so you guys were having sex where initially? Where did it start?

Jeami Chiapulis: In the pool.

Det. Libby: And what happens while you’re having sex?

Jeami Chiapulis: I choked her in the pool… Leisa likes to be choked. She said it made it better. …She said she was very light headed and needed a break. So I went inside to get a drink, and when I came out to the pool she was face down in the pool. I thought she was just unconscious and she started turning purple and got very cold. And then of course I realized what had happened.

Police didn’t buy it for a minute, because they say the evidence refutes it all.

Investigators believe the bleach Chiapulis bought at Home Depot was used to clean up a bloody, brutal murder.

“I believe there was probably some type of violent altercation in the garage,” Libby says. “It probably involved some type of injury that it was a loss of blood.”

Asked what she thought happened that day, Debbie tells Maher, “I really don’t know what happened. I know if there was a fight Leisa would have fought as hard as she could.”

“Do you think he was planning this?” Maher asks Lynn.

“Oh, yeah.”

“For weeks?”

“Probably.”

But why would the master manipulator want to kill the single mother of two little girls?

According to Libby, “His house of cards, if you will, was getting ready to fall in on him.”

Chiapulis was juggling Leisa Hurst and Joyce Fransson, two women who thought they were going to marry him. To make matters worse for Chiapulis, his wife, Lt. Col. Katherine Taylor, was about to return to California from her base in Texas.

“And I think he just had so much pressure coming with his wife showing up soon … and he knew that sooner or later the lies gonna fall apart,” says Libby.

Police now had their motive – a serial liar – a killer done in by his own conceit. But there was one more crucial question: Did Jeami Chiapulis act alone?

“She knew. She knew all along,” says Libby.

The police investigation was far from over, because Chiapulis finally revealed more about what happened the day Leisa Hurst died.

Chiapulis Police Interview: I told Joyce what had happened, and Joyce said, “Well what do you want to do?”

For the first time, Chiapulis would implicate his girlfriend, Joyce Fransson, telling cops he wasn’t alone when he buried Leisa Hurst in the desert.

With Jeami Chiapulis locked up, investigators turned their attention to his 24-year-old girlfriend, Joyce Fransson.

“If she didn’t dig, then she definitely helped him put Leisa’s body into that hole,” Det. Keith Libby tells Maureen Maher.

Investigator Libby believes Chiapulis had killed Leisa and that Joyce helped him bury her body in the desert – in a place where it would never be found.

“Yeah, she’s timid, she’s shy, but she had great motivation to keep it quiet,” Libby says of Joyce. “That was because she was saving her own butt and trying to prove her love for this guy.”

Chiapulis proved unworthy of that love. Questioned by police after his sentencing, he said that Joyce knew everything.

Jeami Chiapulis: Joyce came over that night.

Det. Libby: OK.

Jeami Chiapulis: And I told Joyce what had happened.

Det. Libby: Mm-hmm.

Jeami Chiapulis: And Joyce said, “Well, what do you want to do?”

Chiapulis said Joyce helped him to plan the cover up.

Jeami Chiapulis: So we both agreed to bury her body. Joyce said she knew of a place.

Detective Libby confronted Joyce and broke her down.

“During that conversation she admits that she took him out to the desert, showed him where to bury the trash can,” Libby explains. “She denied knowing the body was in the trash can.”

But on Nov. 24, 2009, based on what Chiapulis had told detectives, Joyce was charged with five counts, as an accessory after the fact, in Leisa’s murder.

While awaiting trial, Joyce returned to the desert with “48 Hours” and her lawyer to tell her version of what happened.

“It’s a place I never wanted to visit again,” Joyce says standing at the burial site. “He spent hours there that morning digging it by himself and he discarded the contents of the can in the hole when I wasn’t looking.”

And she would swear to “48 Hours” that Chiapulis buried the mysterious package entirely on his own.

“I remember thinking, ‘Who is this person?’ He’s not the person I’ve known for four years,” says Joyce.

Says Libby, “I’ll bet that she … definitely knew that she was in that trash can when she showed up at his house. There’s no doubt in my mind.”

“Did you have anything to do with Leisa Hurst’s death? Maher asks Joyce. “No,” she replies,

“Anything to do with her murder?” “No.”

“Or the cover up of her murder?” “No.”

“The burying of her body? The cleanup after the murder?” “No.”

“Did you know that she had been murdered?” “No.”

“How could you sit on that information for 10 months and not tell anyone?” Maher continues.

“I couldn’t,” Joyce replies. “It was the most difficult time.”

“Did you not think about her family?”

“I did think about them… I just felt horrible. I felt like a monster,” cries Joyce.

“I think she really did know and she should also have to pay for that,” says Ashlyn.

“To me, I think she just put on a good act. I’m sorry,” says Debbie.

“And you think she knew exactly what was in the trash can?” asks Maher.

“Yes, I do.”

So on July 26, 2010, prosecutors would make that case with Jeami Chiapulis set to testify against Joyce.

“Joyce Fransson helped Jeami Chiapulis dispose of a body…” D.A. Sean Daugherty tells the court.

“When you were in court did you ever go up to Joyce and confront her?” Maher asks Debbie.
“No,” she says – but she wanted to. “I wanted to shake her and slap her across the face and say, ‘What is wrong with you? Why couldn’t you say something?’”

After just one day of trial, suddenly it’s all over. The judge unexpectedly offers Joyce Fransson a plea deal.

Joyce will plead no contest to all charges. Instead of a possible 5-year sentence, she will now serve only three.

While disappointed with the outcome, Leisa’s mother finally gets her chance to confront Joyce.

“We spent 10 months looking for her. And all you had to do is say, ‘I’m scared. Help me,’” Debbie tells her. “…You didn’t even ask for help. I can’t forgive you for what you did. I just pray that God can forgive you.”

“As close as we could get, justice was done,” says Daugherty. Yet no one seemed satisfied.

“It just makes me sick,” Lynn Hurst says, “‘cause they’re getting’ away with it.”

But Ashlyn and Tyler would rather focus on the mother they had and the future she was working so hard for.

“What do you think she would want for you and your sister when you get older?” Maher asks Tyler.

“To get a good career and go to college,” she says. “I feel she’s right there with me… and it feels like she’s watching me.”

While in prison, Jeami Chiapulis allegedly tried to hire a hitman to kill Joyce Fransson, Det. Keith Libby and Leisa Hurst’s two daughters.

Chiapulis will face murder-for-hire charges on Feb. 16, 2011.

Police say Chiapulis’ wife, Army hero Lt. Col. Katherine Taylor, had no knowledge of his double life. She annulled the marriage in December 2009.

Ashlyn and Tyler are being raised separately by their fathers.

Posted in Media | 1 Comment »

48 Hours Preview: Body of Lies (the story of Leisa Hurst)

Posted by findleisa on January 12, 2011

A young mother vanishes. Did one man’s deception lead to murder? Maureen Maher reports Saturday, Jan. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

The investigative story of the murder of Leisa Hurst’s will be aired this Saturday night at 10 pm on CBS.  Thank you for all your prayers and for all the help we received in her recovery attempts.  We still love her deeply and miss her, we hope this program brings some much needed clarity and healing to all that need it.

Posted in Media | 1 Comment »

Fransson jurors see interrogation regarding murder cover up

Posted by findleisa on July 28, 2010

July 27, 2010 5:32 PM
BARSTOW • Jurors heard testimony from Joyce Fransson’s father and saw a lengthy interrogation tape in the second day of Fransson’s trial on accessory to murder charges.

Fransson, 24, is charged with five counts of being an accessory to murder after the fact and one count of unlawful taking or taking or driving of a vehicle in assisting Jeami Chiapulis cover up the 2009 murder of Leisa Hurst, Chiapulis’ other girlfriend.

Chiapulis pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Hurst in November of 2009 in a deal to avoid a trial and first degree murder conviction.

Barstow Police detective Keith Libby was first to testify on Tuesday. Libby said that he went to Chiapulis’ house in Silver Lakes on Jan. 22, 2009, to interview him after speaking with Hurst’s family and learning that Hurst had a relationship with Chiapulis.

Libby said that he thought Chiapulis may be involved in Hurst’s disappearance because he changed his story numerous times, first saying that he only had a friendship with Hurst, then saying that they had a sexual relationship when he was interviewed again in Barstow. Libby also said that Chiapulis consistently referred to Hurst in the past tense during interviews.

When confronted with questions about a receipt from the Home Depot that listed a large garbage can, Libby said that Chiapulis claimed the can was for clothing he was going to donate to a local thrift store, but the can was never found there.

Libby said police were led to Fransson when Chiapulis said that a condom found by police in a garbage can at his home was from an encounter with her.

When police contacted Fransson, she said that Chiapulis did buy a barrel and shovel at the Home Depot but that she did not know Hurst.

Fransson’s father, Roy Marquez, was next to take the witness stand. Marquez said that he owned property north of the former Lake Delores water park in Newberry Springs — where Hurst’s body was found.

Marquez also said that his sister-in-law lived on the same street where Hurst’s Honda Element was found with the windows down and the key in the ignition.

The final portion or Tuesday’s proceedings consisted of over two hours of video footage of Barstow Police Detectives Leo Griego and Keith Libby, questioning Fransson.

In the footage, Libby continuously questions Fransson about any knowledge she has about Hurst’s vehicle, and why it was parked near her aunt’s house in Hesperia. After an hour of questioning, Fransson said she did help Chiapulis abandon the car because she thought the area near her aunt’s house was high in crime and the car would be stolen.

Fransson said Chiapulis told her that he was helping a friend dump the vehicle because the friend was behind on his payments.

Libby and Griego continued to question Fransson in the tape and tell her that large amounts of evidence prove she knows more than she is telling them until the tape had to be turned off when court ended for the day at 4:30 p.m.

Fransson’s trial is set to continue on Thursday at 10 a.m.  

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or adome@desertdispatch.com

Posted in Joyce Fransson | 7 Comments »

Jury hears opening argument in Fransson case

Posted by findleisa on July 28, 2010

Woman charged with helping cover up 2009 murder

July 26, 2010 4:38 PM

BARSTOW • A jury heard the prosecution’s opening argument and testimony from two witnesses Monday in the case of a Barstow woman charged with covering up the January 2009 murder of her boyfriend’s other girlfriend.

Joyce Fransson, 24, is charged with five counts of being an accessory to murder after the fact and one count of unlawful taking or taking or driving of a vehicle in assisting Jeami Chiapulis cover up the murder of Leisa Hurst.

Chiapulis pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Hurst in November of 2009 in a deal to avoid a trial and first degree murder conviction.

In his opening statement Monday morning, Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty said that Fransson assisted Chiapulis in burying Hurst’s body in the desert near the former Lake Delores water park in Newberry Springs and then lied to police for 10 months after the crime in an attempt to cover it up, as large searches for Hurst’s body took place.

“She gave directions to what she what she thought was family property near the water park,” said Daugherty, who showed the jury photos of tire tracks at the burial site and a photo of Hurst’s decomposed body.

Daugherty also said that Fransson abandoned Hurst’s car with the windows down and the key in the ignition in Hesperia in the hopes that someone would steal it.

Daugherty explained that the he would use tapes from police interviews and MySpace messages written by Fransson to show that she knew what she was doing when she assisted Chiapulis bury the trash can, and lied to police in an effort to help Chiapulis. Police created a fictional MySpace profile of a woman who said that she was a friend of Chiapulis’ to entice Fransson into giving details about her involvement in the case.

Fransson’s attorney, Frank Peterson, declined to make an opening statement.

Leisa’s father, Valden Hurst, was first to take the witness stand, saying that he knew of his daughter’s relationship with Chiapulis, and gave a a recollection of the day he received a call about the found car, which was registered in his name.

Valden also gave an account of taking part in search parties of over 200 people in desert areas and mineshafts between Silver Lakes and Victorville. He said the 10 months that went by before the discovery of his daughter’s body were agonizing.

“I had terrible nightmares,” said Valden. “I couldn’t sleep, even with sleeping pills.”

Valden’s son, Valden Hurst Jr., was next to testify. Valden Jr. was sent to retrieve Hurst’s car but decided to leave it alone for police to handle after feeling something wasn’t right.

The trial is set to continue Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

If convicted, Fransson could face five years and eight months in prison. She remains free on $150,000 bail.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or adome@desertdispatch.com

Posted in Joyce Fransson | 2 Comments »

Joyce Frannson – Preliminary Hearing Begins in Accessory to Murder Case

Posted by findleisa on January 14, 2010

BARSTOW • A 23-year-old Barstow woman accused of helping her friend hide the murder of his 30-year-old Barstow girlfriend started her preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Joyce Fransson is charged with six felonies, including unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle and five counts of being an accessory to murder after the fact. The charges stem from the disappearance and murder of Leisa Hurst on Jan. 22.  Jeami Chiapulis, whom police claim also had a relationship with Fransson — and is married as well — accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Hurst on Nov. 6.

Det. Keith Libby was the only witness called during the preliminary hearing.

Libby said that he interviewed Chiapulis at the West Valley Detention Center on November 23 after he was sentenced. During that interview Chiapulis said that he called Fransson after he killed Hurst, and the two planned how to dispose of her body, according to Libby. Chiapulis said they first abandoned Hurst’s Honda Element with the keys in it and the windows down on Olive Street in Hesperia, where police later recovered it, in an attempt to have it stolen on Jan. 22. Libby testified that Fransson admitted to recommending that Chiapulis leave the SUV on Olive Street.

Chiapulis told Libby they returned to his house after abandoning the car and loaded a trash can, containing Hurst’s body, into his car. Libby testified that they drove to a spot in the desert near the former Lake Dolores water park in Newberry Springs, and Fransson acted as a lookout as Chiapulis buried Hurst. Chiapulis said that Fransson helped put the body into the grave, and they believed her family owned the property where they buried her.

Libby testified that Fransson later admitted to going with Chiapulis to the grave, but said that she stayed in the car and didn’t know what was in the trash can.

Libby also said that during his investigation into Hurst’s disappearance he created a fake MySpace account, posing as a female friend of Chiapulis’, and contacted Fransson. Fransson told Libby’s MySpace persona that she was creating a story to tell during Chiapulis’ court hearings and that she shouldn’t have told the police about leaving Hurst’s SUV in Hesperia.

Fransson is now being held at the West Valley Detention Center on $300,000 bail. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Barstow courthouse.

Posted in Joyce Fransson | Leave a Comment »

Joyce Fransson – Pleads “Not Guilty” to murder cover up

Posted by findleisa on December 1, 2009

BARSTOW • A 23-year-old Barstow woman accused of helping her friend cover up the murder of his 30-year-old Barstow girlfriend pleaded not guilty Monday.

Joyce Fransson is facing six felony charges, including unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle and five counts of being an accessory to murder after the fact. The charges stem from the disappearance and murder of Leisa Hurst on Jan. 22.  Jeami Chiapulis, whom police claim also had a relationship with Fransson — and is married as well — accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Hurst on Nov. 6.

Police believe Fransson actively participated in concealing Hurst’s murder, according to a Barstow Police Department report. Fransson and Chiapulis abandoned Hurst’s Honda Element with the keys in it and the windows down on Olive Street in Hesperia, where police later recovered it, in an attempt to have it stolen on Jan. 22. The pair then went to Chiapulis’ home where it is believed they picked up Hurst’s body. Fransson is accused of acting as a lookout for Chiapulis while he buried Hurst’s body in the desert near Newberry Springs, according to the report. Chiapulis led authorities to Hurst’s body in the desert on Oct. 8.

Fransson is now being held at the West Valley Detention Center on $300,000 bail. Her next hearing is set for Dec. 8 at the Barstow courthouse.

Posted in Joyce Fransson | 3 Comments »

Joyce Fransson – Second Arrest Made for Leisa’s Murder

Posted by findleisa on December 1, 2009

BARSTOW • A 23-year-old Barstow woman was arrested Tuesday after being accused of helping her friend conceal the killing of his 30-year-old Barstow girlfriend.

Joyce Fransson is being charged with being an accessory to murder and grand theft auto in connection with the murder of Leisa Hurst. Jeami Chiapulis, whom police claim also had a relationship with Fransson — and is married as well — accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Hurst on Nov. 6.

Police believe Fransson knew she was helping Chiapulis cover up Hurst’s killing on Jan. 22, according to a Barstow Police Department report. The pair abandoned Hurst’s Honda Element with the keys in it and windows down in Hesperia in an attempt to have it stolen.

Det. Keith Libby testified during Chiapulis’ preliminary hearing in June that Fransson told him that Chiapulis met her at California State University of San Bernardino on Jan. 22. Libby testified that Fransson said Chiapulis asked her where a high-crime area was to dump the vehicle. According to Fransson, he claimed a friend wanted to fake a vehicle theft. Libby said that Chiapulis then followed Fransson to Olive Street in Hesperia, where they left Hurst’s rust colored Honda Element before going to Chiapulis’ house. Hurst’s SUV was later discovered on Olive Street.

Police believe that after Fransson and Chiapulis left his home they took Hurst’s body to the desert. Fransson is accused of acting as a lookout while Chiapulis buried Hurst in a desert area near Newberry Springs, according to the report.

Although police interviewed Fransson during the initial investigation, detectives waited to charge her until they had enough evidence, according to Libby.

“We felt all along that she wasn’t being completely truthful,” Libby said. “Part of the reason we didn’t rush to arrest her was that we weren’t sure what was going to happen with Chiapulis’ case. We wanted to make sure we had everything.”

A hearing should be scheduled soon.

Posted in On-going Investigation | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jeami Chiapulis Receives His Sentence, 15 Years To Life

Posted by findleisa on November 21, 2009

BARSTOW • Judge Steven Mapes formally sentenced a 37-year-old Silver Lakes man to 15 years to life Friday in connection with the killing of his apparent 30-year-old Barstow girlfriend.

Jeami Chiapulis pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Leisa Hurst during a hearing on Nov. 6. The guilty plea was part of a deal he reached with the district attorney’s office to avoid a trial and first degree murder conviction. Chiapulis revealed the location of Hurst’s body and agreed to serve 15 years to life as part of the deal.

Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty said that Chiapulis’ will serve a minimum of 15 years before his case can even be reviewed by a parole board and could possibly spend his entire life in prison.

“I’m pleased that (the family) can finally give her a proper burial and move on now that the sentencing is over,” Daugherty said.

Hurst’s family and friends filled the courtroom on Friday and took the opportunity to talk to the court during the victim impact statements. Chiapulis sat still watching each person as they spoke.

Hurst’s daughters, a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old, walked toward the front of the courtroom together and took turns speaking.

“It will never be the same,” The 13-year-old said between sobs. “I’m never going to get a text from mom telling me to have a good day and that she loves me. I can’t ask her for anything anymore. She always gave the best advice.”

Loren Brewster, Hurst’s uncle, spoke to the court about her recent funeral.

“As part of a plea deal Leisa’s body was recovered by the authorities and she was released to the family by the San Bernardino County Coroner,” Brewster said. “We were able to bury her at Sunset Hills (Memorial Park) and this time she was surrounded by family and members of her adopted family.”

Brewster finished his statement by saying that although the family has Hurst back, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

“There are so many questions,” Brewster said. “How anyone could do this to another human being? How could someone just kill a person and leave them in the desert like trash?”

Mapes asked Paul Henderson, Chiapulis’ public defender, if Chiapulis would like to make a statement. Mapes also said that he believed the family would appreciate a comment from Chiapulis, but he could not order him to talk. Henderson told Mapes that he had talked to Chiapulis and that he didn’t wish to give a statement.

Hurst was reported missing January 22. Chiapulis checked himself into the psychiatric ward of an unidentified hospital on Jan. 26. Police said Chiapulis had a romantic relationship  with Hurst, and searched his home twice shortly after Hurst’s disappearance. He was arrested at a Redland’s motel on February 13 just after being released from the hospital.

Posted in Jeami Chiapulis | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Chiapulis, Jeami SENTENCING – 11/20/2009

Posted by findleisa on November 9, 2009

b78473044z120090220085815000gr6gkqnd1_lgCase No: FBA900114 Court: B4
Judge: John Vander Feer
DDA: Daugherty, Sean

Filed Charges:
Count Charge Severity Description Date Plea Status
1 PC 187(A) F MURDER 01/22/2009 ACTIVE

Jeami has already pleaded guilty to 2nd degree murder as part of a plea bargin which required him to lead authorities to Leisa’s body.  This occured on Nov. 8th, on this day Jeami will receive his sentence for what he has done.

Prior to sentencing, the family will be allowed to address the court.   Leisa’s mother, Deborah Welch, was allowed to speak at Jeami’s last hearing on 11/6/2009 because she lives out of state and would not be able to come to the sentencing.   On 11/20/2009 the rest of the family will have a chance to speak.  Afterwards, the judge will sentence Jeami anywhere from 15 years to life in prision, less time already served.

Jamie has to the right to speak as well, but doesn’t have to.  A complete explanation of how or why he killed Leisa may never be known unless Chiapulis decides to say something during his sentencing hearing or at a later time.

You can use the link below to read transcripts from all of Jeami’s court appearances. You will need to enter and search on his Case No “FBA900114″, click on Jeami’s name, then “Case Report”, then click “Format Report.”

http://170.164.31.10/openaccess/criminal/casedefendants.asp?casenumber=FBA900114&courtcode=X&filedatefrom=&filedateto=&limit=&DSN=

Posted in Jeami Chiapulis | 2 Comments »

 
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