Her death appeared to be suicide. But eye drops poisoned Wisconsin woman, police say

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Her death appeared to be a suicide.

Crushed pills covered the chest of the woman lying dead in a recliner and atop a plate at her side. Prescription medication bottles lined a table on either side of her at the home by a golf course in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

In October 2018, officials believed it could have been a drug overdose.

Jessy Kurczewski, who was her caregiver and friend, said the woman was possibly suicidal but also “really loved her cats, often worried about them and wouldn’t want to leave them behind,” according to a criminal complaint. She told investigators that the woman was hospitalized days earlier and became worried she would be forced to live in a nursing home due to her failing health.

But a neighbor, cousin and friend of the woman doubted she killed herself. They had suspicions about Kurczewski, the complaint says

The cousin told investigators he searched state court records and discovered Kurczewski pleaded guilty to forgery years earlier, and he was dubious the woman left the entire estate to Kurczewski, the complaint says.

In January 2019, the county medical examiner made an unusual discovery: The woman died from a fatal dose of tetrahydrozoline, the primary ingredient in eye drops. Her death was ruled a homicide, not a suicide or accident.

Investigators began taking a closer look at Kurczewski.

In July 2019, they conducted a search warrant of her home and arrested Kurczewski on violation of her probation. While jailed, investigators confronted Kurczewski with the toxicology results.

At first, Kurczewski denied knowing a person could die from eye drop poisoning, according to the complaint. Later, she said the woman mixed vodka and Visine before her death, a detail she hadn’t shared previously, the complaint says.

Then Kurczewski told investigators she gave the woman a water bottle with six bottles of Visine at her request and said it was “her choice,’ the complaint says.

Investigators say Kurczewski committed over $290,000 in fraud while in control of the woman’s finances. About $130,000 was fraudulently transferred to Kurczewski by check, officials say.

Kurczewski was charged Friday with first-degree intentional homicide, theft of movable property greater than $10,000, and theft of movable property greater than $10,000 to $100,000.

At a Monday hearing, Kurczewski’s bail was set at $1 million, and she is forbidden to contact witnesses or possess firearms and over-the-counter eye drops, among other stipulations.

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