Leisa Hurst was reported missing to the Police Department after the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department discovered her orange/rust colored Honda Element abandoned in the area of Olive Street and Second Street in Hesperia.
Her cell phone records show it was last used 10:54 p.m. on a Thursday night near the area of a cell tower at 11500 Mariposa Road in Hesperia. Hurst had not been seen or heard from since.
Jeami Chiapulis, a 36-year-old Helendale, CA resident, had a romantic relationship with Hurst. But he had been living a double life, dating Joyce Fransson, a woman he met while attending Barstow college. He also had a wife, in active duty in the military, who was due back home soon. His house of cards was about to fold.
Exactly what happened that fateful night will probably never be known. Video from Home Depot, and receipts in Jeami’s possession show the purchase of rubber gloves, a shower cap, and bleach, among other things. Two searches of Chiapulis’ home by Barstow Police led investigators to believe that he was connected to her disappearance, but they did not name him as a suspect at that time.
Chiapulis checked himself the psychiatric ward of a VA hospital on Jan. 26. He remained a patient there for several weeks. When Detectives spoke to Fransson, she stated she knew nothing.
After leaving the hospital, Jeami R. Chiapulis was arrested by Barstow Police detectives at a Starlite Motel in Redlands after his discharge from the hospital on February 13, 2009.
On February 18, Chiapulis pleaded not guilty in a Barstow courthouse with Hurst’s family, friends and neighbors present. He was held at West Valley Detention Center, pending trial for Leisa’s murder.
On June 5, Barstow Judge Cheryl Kersey ruled that Jeami Chiapulis would stand trial for the murder of Leisa Hurst, in the first-degree. If convicted he would face 25 years to life in prison.
Searches for Leisa’s remains were conducted along the Mojave River and desert regions south of Chiapulis’ home in Silver Lake Community. The search revealed nothing, and in the end, searchers were off the mark by about 50 miles.
In October 2009 Jeami Chiapulis entered into an agreement with the district attorney’s office during a pretrial hearing to receive 15 years to life in prison for second degree murder in exchange for revealing the location of Leisa Hurst’s body
Chiapulis led detectives and authorities to an area near Newberry Springs, where human remains were found. The remains were positively identified by the San Bernardino County Coroner. On October 30, Leisa was laid to rest at Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Apple Valley, CA.
Jeami Chiapulis was formally sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in Novemeber 2009. Leisa’s family and friends filled the courtroom and took the opportunity to talk to the court during the victim impact statements portion of the proceedings. Leisa’s daughters walked toward the front of the courtroom together and took turns speaking.
Chiapulis sat still watching each person as they spoke, no hint of emotion on his now-aged face. The Judge, Steven Mapes asked if Chiapulis would like to make a statement, as he believed the family would appreciate a comment from Chiapulis. The coward, through his attorney, said that he did not wish to give a statement.
In November, Joyce Fransson was arrested in connection with Leisa’s murder. Police believe that Fransson not only helped Jeami Chiapulis abandon Leisa’s car, but also acted as a lookout while Chiapulis buried Hurst in the desert. By her own admission, Chiapulis had woven a story about his family being in the Mafia, and the Mafia had sent him a package to dispose of. She claims to not know what was in the package, a large garbage can. This smart college-educated woman jumped in the car, and together they disposed of the body. She never asked any questions, and claimed to be scared. So scared, that when the police questioned her, she offered no information that could have led to finding the remains for months. In fact, she only offered information after Chiapulis implicated her in the cover-up. She went about her every day life while the family suffered for months not knowing where Leisa Hurst’s remains were buried.
After two days of jury trial, Joyce Fransson made a deal with the court to plead no contest to accessory to murder charges and received three short years for her part in the murder.
Fransson’s attorney, Frank Peterson, said that Fransson was very sorry for what happened and that she should have “put things together” when police interviewed her in April of 2009 but did not cooperate because of her feelings for Chiapulis. She will likely serve 18 months of her sentence after receiving “day for day” good behavior credit.
In an separate investigation conducted in three California prisons, detectives learned that Chiapulis paid a sum of money as down payment to a fellow inmate for the murder of Barstow police Detectives Leo Griego and Keith Libby, Fransson, and Hurst’s two daughters. Nice guy. He struck a deal that got him 15 years to life in exchange for showing detectives where Leisa Hurst’s body was buried, but hopefully this scheme will ensure he never sees the light of day. On September 17, 2010, the Kern County District attorney’s office filed five counts of solicitation to commit murder against this convicted murderer.
Detectives believe Chiapulis wanted the detectives and Fransson murdered to prevent their testimony at future appeals hearings. In case his appeals scheme failed, he wanted Hurst’s daughters killed so that they would not be able to provide victim impact statements at parole board hearings. During his arraignment Chiapulis pleaded not guilt to all five counts. A trial date is now pending. I hope he fries. And Joyce should fry with him.
Leisa Hurst was a single mother trying to raise her two daughters. She had not a single enemy. She was a good and loving person, seeking what each of us strive for; a good life, completed by the love of a caring partner. What she got, and what her family and children must live with for the rest of their lives, was a never-ending nightmare, caused by a depraved demon.
Esotericwombat writes in his blog that he talks to strangers. Me too, all the time. I must have something in my face that attracts people to talk to me, or me to them. I don’t know why. This is not a post about talking to strangers, though. This is about a friend who became a stranger. For whatever reason, his post made me think of Donna, a girl I knew in the early 80’s. Or maybe what brought on the memory was listening to “Angie”, which was also posted there.
I was living in Sayville, NY at the time in a small apartment complex down on the bay. The cool thing was that there was a boat yard there used by a sailing club. I would fall asleep at night listening to the wind cut through the ropes on the sailboats. They made a singing sound that would lull me to sleep. The Sayville Ferry was next to the sailboat yard and I would watch the coming and goings of the day-trippers in the summer. I worked right next door at a little hole in the wall takeout fish market, The Clamdigger. I just had to step out of my place, walk down the driveway and viola!, I was at work. Life was good.
Donna moved into the apartment next to mine. It was a studio. She was an out of work gym teacher doing her time at Estee Lauder until she could find a real job, at the schools. We hit it off right away. She was a tiny thing, very bouncy and active as I imagine a gym teacher would be. I lived with my boyfriend, and future husband and future, future ex-husband, Bob; she was on her own. We would hang out in the front yard which fronted the bay, all for $125 a month, waterfront. I had a one bedroom so she probably paid $75-$80.
We hung out for a few months. There was not a thing wrong with her, I swear. I met her mom and step-dad. They gave no hint that anything was wrong or that anything ever was. One day she tells me she’s met a guy, Tom. Tom Kennedy. She met him at Estee Lauder. A few weeks later we meet him. He was cool, normal. Shortly after that Donna tells me that Tom is engaged to be married, but that he wants to break it off and be with Donna. The only thing is he’s not sure how to do it because he’s supposed to be getting married in two months or so. Things reach a critical stage-the wedding is imminent. He has to do something. He’s been staying at Donna’s house for weeks, off and on and he needs to tell this girl, who is Hispanic, by the way, that he is not going to marry her.
Donna stops by after work and tells me that Tom is going to the girl’s house that very day and he’s going to tell her grandmother, who she was raised by, that he can’t marry her granddaughter. Donna is pacing and worried because Tom is afraid of the grandmother because she practices Santoria. Santoria is a syncretic religion that combines elements of African and Catholic beliefs. I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about then. Later I did some research and found out about the practice. But at the time I just figured Tom was scared because he was ditching the girl days before their wedding.
Tom doesn’t show up that Friday night or Saturday either. It was a long weekend with Donna. When he does finally come back on Sunday he is visibly shaken. He has a huge leather-bound white bible with him and he tells us he has to read it to protect himself. At this point my boyfriend, Bob, goes to watch sports on T.V. I stay in the studio apartment with Tom and Donna. Tom proceeds to tell us the story after Donna pulls out the sleep-sofa and they both get in it, with the Bible on their laps. I sit in the kitchen chair I’ve pulled up.
Tom says he went to the girls house. She’s there. The Grandmother is there. The Grandmother is not happy with him and his current disappearing act. He’s told the girl he can’t marry her. That he’s found someone else. That it has nothing to do with her. It’s just the way it is. She cries. He is summoned to the Grandmother’s bedroom where she sits in bed with a white, leather-bound bible and a black-face doll. She tells him he is cursed for what he has done to her grandchild. He tells her he is sorry. She hands him the bible and tells him the answer is in the bible and dismisses him. She tells him to never darken their door again and reminds him he is cursed.
While Tom is telling us what happened he’s thumbing through the pages of the Bible. When he’s done I tell them this is bullshit. The curse will only work if he believes in it. Otherwise, ditch the thought, the girlfriend and her grandmother. Get on with his life with Donna. The old woman is crazy. He says he’s scared and they need to read the bible to get the answer to the curse. I leave them to their on devices and go home. I tell Bob but he wants me to be quiet so he can watch his sports show.
Over the next few days Tom and Donna read the bible. They don’t go to work. Tom is convinced something terrible is going to happen to him. Maybe he’ll get in a car accident. Maybe someone the Grandmother knows will maim or kill him for what he’s done to his former fiance. I’m getting annoyed with them. When I knock on the door they open it, peering out from a small crack in the door as if I’m an agent sent from Hell. When Tom goes to the store I talk to Donna trying to convince her the grandmother is getting the better of them because here they sit, like scared children, shivering every time the phone rings or there is a knock on the door. She is truly convinced Tom is cursed.
This incident leads Donna into the depths of despair. Their love is doomed. Forever cursed. She tells me Tom is a Kennedy, but I know that. No, she says, a REAL Kennedy, a Massachusetts Kennedy. And we all know THEY are cursed. Come on, I say. Tom is a Kennedy? Yes, and he has a twin brother. The Tom that just left for the store is not her Tom. It is his evil twin brother. He is keeping Tom away from her. The Tom who came back that day was not her Tom. It was his brother. The Grandmother kept her Tom and sent this Tom in his stead. And now she is pregnant, but who is the father? Tom or his brother? Pregnant? Yes. With John Lennon’s child. John has been dead for months. This is now the summer. She tells me she’s having twins. A boy and a girl. She knows this because the nails on her right hand are long; this means it’s a girl. The nails on her left hand are short; this means one of them is a boy. I tell her that John is dead. She smiles and says she knows. He came from the clouds and impregnated her. Yoko is jealous. Tom comes home from the store. I ask him if he is a Massachusetts Kennedy. He smiles and makes the crazy sign when Donna isn’t looking. I go back to my place. Tell Bob the story. He says to stay away from them both. They’re smoking too much pot.
A few days later they’ve packed up and moved. I don’t know where. I go to Donna’s mother’s house. She tells me she’s afraid of Tom. That Tom has Donna in some house over in Ronkonkoma. They’re living in the basement. Tom is back working at Estee Lauder. Donna isn’t working and is going to be a stay-at-home mom. Donna’s mother is frantic. Her daughter is talking nonsense about Tom not being Tom. She gives me their address. I go there. Go around the house to the entrance of the basement. No Tom. But Donna is in there. The door is locked from the outside. I look in the window. No furniture. No nothing but a sleeping bag and a white bible which is on the kitchen counter. I get Donna’s attention. She comes to the door but can’t open it. I force the door. Walk in. Donna tells me Tom’s brother is holding her captive. That there is no food in the house. That she is hungry.
Donna tells me that Tom’s brother is going to be very mad at me. I have kidnapped the mother of John Lennon’s children who he is going to make a lot of money on. I tell her to get in the car. I bring her to her mother’s house. Within hours she is in the Central Islip Psychiatric facility. Over the next week I visit her. She is malnourished. Not pregnant and missing the “real” Tom. The other Tom couldn’t be Tom because Tom would never do to her what the bad Tom did. Donna’s mother tells me the doctor diagnosed her as manic-depressive. She seems a little better to me, but she keeps missing Tom. She insists that he’s looking for her and she hopes that when he finds her that he is the good Tom.
I go to visit her after I leave work, on the 6th or 7th day of her stay at CI, as it was known then. Donna is gone. I call her mother from the pay phone. Her mother tells me Tom found Donna. He took her out of the hospital. He has that right because he’s her husband. They married just weeks before.
I never see her or him again. Her mother moved to Florida about a year later. We lost touch. I can’t remember her last name. Or Donna’s. Odd. One day it will come to me. Where is she? What happened to her? Was Tom Kennedy his real name? Did he have a twin brother? Was he a real Kennedy? Was there a fiance? A Grandmother? We’re they cursed?