Jury finds wife of Berrien County soldier guilty of his murder

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - "I'm satisfied with the verdict. I'm definitely happy we got justice," Tyrone Hassel Jr. said.

In their own words, there was justice for family and friends of a young Army sergeant killed, in part, because of his wife.

Jurors took just more than an hour Thursday morning before finding Kemia Hassel, 22, guilty in the shooting death of 23-year-old Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III.

"Guilty of first-degree, premeditated murder, as aider or abettor," a juror read.

"Thank you," the judge replied.

In Michigan, the conviction means a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. Kemia Hassel was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree, premeditated murder.

Prosecutors called the killing "a planned conspiracy," in closing arguments on Wednesday.

Hassel III's murder on New Year's Eve in 2018 was the result of a plot between Kemia and, allegedly, her boyfriend, Jeremy Cuellar. All three were in the Army.

Kemia Hassel testified she and Cuellar were motivated by their affair and a $500,000 payout from life insurance and military death benefits.

She said the two planned to live together in Georgia after the murder and raise Kemia Hassel's son, whose father was the victim.

"You want your kid to be better than you, and he accomplished that. He was better than me," Hassel Jr., expressed.

Hassel Jr. said he now has mixed emotions about his daughter-in-law, who also confessed to her mother during a jailhouse phone call.

"She's the devil," he said. "Listening to that. She was just saying it. Just hearing her in her own regular tone with no sympathy, it's like, 'Who are you? We never knew you.'"

The defense tried to paint Kemia Hassel's police confession as coerced.

"Unfortunately, whenever your client is the main source of the case against your client, it's a very difficult obstacle to overcome," defense attorney Chris Kessel said.

The prosecution told jurors to mind the evidence. The chief assistant prosecutor called the verdict "bittersweet".

"It's an honor to do this case," prosecutor Steve Pierangeli said. "It was a just verdict. [Hassel III was] such a good man, lost his life."

Hassel Jr. is now focused on getting custody of his grandson, who is currently living in Georgia.

Hassel Jr. said he wants his own son to be remembered as he will always see him.

"As a hero. He was," he said.

Hassel Jr. said he is seeking help from attorneys in Georgia to assist with his custody case.

Kemia Hassel will be sentenced Aug. 29.

Cuellar's trial begins next month.