Sex, lies & hit men

"Jewish husbands don't kill their wives": Texas Monthly gives Bellaire socialite shooting the tabloid treatment

"Jewish husbands don't kill their wives": Texas Monthly gives Bellaire socialite shooting the tabloid treatment

Generally when Texas Monthly tackles the society scene in Houston, it's Mimi Swartz on something like the battle over John O'Quinn's estate or the rise and fall of Allen Stanford.

In the February 2012 issue, it's crime writer Skip Hollandsworth's beat, as he digs into the sordid, ongoing drama of Bellaire socialite Yvonne Stern and her husband, lawyer Jeffrey Stern, who is soon to go on trial for her attempted murder.

Houstonians are probably familiar with with the shocking details of the crime: First there were two bullets fired into the first floor of the Sterns' Bellaire home while Jeffrey was out of town and Yvonne and their two children were sleeping upstairs, unharmed. Then there was the second attempt, when the shooter rang the doorbell and shot at Yvonne through the glass door, narrowly missing her and her son.

 If he's innocent, why did he repeatedly lie to the police when questioned about whether he had a mistress? If he's guilty, why didn't he just hire a pro instead leaving the job to his mistress? 

Afterwards the family took several safety precautions, including adding flood lights and bulletproof glass windows, buying an armored SUV and having Yvonne stay temporarily at an apartment not far away. It was in the parking garage of her luxury apartment complex that a gunman found Yvonne for the third time, demanding her money before shooting her in the stomach. The bullet grazed her liver and colon before landing in her hip, but Yvonne survived, spending eight days in the hospital.

The only thing more stunning than three failed shooting attempts are the people that police and prosecutors say hired the string of hit men: Jeffrey Stern and his mistress, law office manager Michelle Gaiser. Gaiser issued a 70-page confession when she was arrested and three hit men have been sentenced for their roles (a fourth hit man's case hung the jury), but it seems like no one but the prosecutors believes that Jeffrey Stern is guilty.

That includes Yvonne, who dropped her divorce suit and moved back in with her husband after spending a summer in Aspen and — according to her interview with Hollandsworth — making a pros and cons list.

Speaking to Hollandsworth, Yvonne seems to waiver between reasoned ("I'm sorry, but I'm not in a trance, I've not been bribed and there was certainly no prenup. Believe me, if we had divorced, I'd be far richer than I am now") and slightly deluded ("I actually told the detectives that my husband is Jewish and Jewish husbands don't kill their wives. They buy them jewelry.").

 Yvonne dropped her divorce suit and moved back in with her husband after spending a summer in Aspen and making a pros and cons list. 

The case against Stern, which is set to go to trial this spring, seems to rest on whether the jury believes that Gaiser was working with her angry and controlling lover or whether she is, as her lawyers say the defense will characterize her, "the second coming of the bunny-boiling Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction."

Are the phone records and cash transfers between Jeffrey Stern and Michelle Gaiser evidence of collusion or just the trappings of an affair? If he's innocent, why did he repeatedly lie to the police when questioned about whether he had a mistress who could be behind the attacks? Or, as a family friend asks, if he's guilty, why didn't he just hire a professional instead of leaving the job to his mistress?

Hollandsworth doesn't have any answers, but he sure has fun digging through all the dirt.

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Yvonne Stern Photo by Dave Rossman
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Yvonne and Jeffrey Stern outside court earlier this year Courtesy of Channel 13 Houston
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