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Woman accused of setting house fire, then running over her husband as he escaped, tells her side

The Death of Todd Stermer
The Death of Todd Stermer 41:45

Produced by Judy Rybak  

]This story previously aired on February 1. It was updated on November 21.]

A Michigan woman is convicted of murder and arson after authorities say she set the family home on fire to kill her husband and then ran him over with a van when he escaped the flames. Linda Stermer was sentenced to life in prison, but she convinced a judge she didn't get a fair trial and was released.  Now, the Michigan Attorney General is fighting to reinstate her conviction.  Did she do it? Or was the death of Todd Stermer it a tragic accident?

"You must know, Linda, that it's very difficult for people to believe that your husband is burned in a fire, he escapes, he's still alive, badly burned and then you hit him with a car," "48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty asks Linda Stermer, who is speaking out for the first time. "What, you just happened to have that kind of bad luck?"

"Bad luck doesn't even describe it," Stermer says.


On January 7, 2007, the day her house went up in flames, Linda Stermer says she was doing laundry in the basement around 3 p.m., when she heard her husband Todd let out a scream. She ran upstairs to find their living room engulfed in flames.

Linda Stermer:  I could not have gotten over to Todd because there was fire between the two of us.

She panicked, says Linda, and escaped through the front door, with no shoes or cell phone. When Todd didn't follow, she jumped into the family's van to get help, knowing the keys were inside. But just as she was about to leave, Linda says she suddenly saw Todd through the driver's side window.

Linda Stermer: I'm screaming at him, "get in the van, get in the van." … And he won't get in the van.

She says she jumped out of the van to try and help him.

Linda Stermer: And I'm … yelling at him to … to lay down, to do anything. I can't touch him. … And so I get back in the van. … And I lost sight of him. I don't know where he went to, but it was so muddy … The tires were just spinning … so I couldn't get any traction … So, I just put it in gear and I'm trying to let it creep until it gets some purchase.

The van's tires were worn, says Linda, and the driveway too muddy. So, she drove around to the side of the house, where there was a sandy area, thinking that would give her traction.

Burned Stermer home
Linda Stermer says she had a hard time driving because the ground was so muddy. As she was pulling out of the driveway, she says she saw that Todd had made it out and was near the front of the house, badly burned. She says she tried to help him, but he wouldn't get in the van. Then she says she lost sight of him and drove around the side of the house toward a sandy area where she could get traction. Michigan State Police

Linda Stermer: I saw the neighbors … I saw them coming up the driveway at some point.

Neighbors Mike Matheny and Connie Calhoun had seen the fire and rushed over to help.

Linda Stermer: Mike … he is yelling at me. "Where's the kids? Where's Todd?" And I'm screaming at him. He said I was incoherent, couldn't understand me because I'm hysterical. And I'm trying to tell him the kids aren't here. Todd's up there.

Linda says they looked for Todd at the front of the house — where she had last seen him — but he was gone.

Linda Stermer: [Looking at diagram of her property with Erin Moriarty]: We found Todd laying right here closer to the house.

Somehow, Todd ended up on the side of the house, not far from where she stopped the van.

Erin Moriarty [pointing at diagram]: He went from over here to here.

Linda Stermer: Yes. And he was laying on his back with his head closest to the house.

Linda says she has no idea how he got there but investigators later found Todd's blood on the van's front bumper and undercarriage.

Todd was barely clothed when they found him, so Mike Matheny grabbed some of his own clothing from the backseat of his car and covered Todd with it.

Linda Stermer: He was so badly burnt … And he was alive. He was looking at me, but he couldn't talk. And I laid there just begging him not to leave me.

When emergency medical technicians arrived, they tried to save Todd.

Linda Stermer: And they said they couldn't hook up a defibrillator to him, 'cause he was too badly burned. … When they stopped working on him, I was so, so angry at them. … Why didn't they get him in the ambulance? Why did they waste so much time trying there? [crying] Can we take a break please?

Trevor Stermer: Anytime we would ask any details on the case or what happened that day … she would start crying and look for sympathy from you and play the victim.

The couple's sons, Trevor and Trenton Stermer, began to suspect there was more to the story, when their mother seemed reluctant to share certain details.

Trevor Stermer: I asked her about the van and if she had run him over. And she said she didn't want to talk about it … And that I should just believe her, but her story just wasn't adding up.

Trenton Stermer: It didn't make sense that our father, who was in great shape … it didn't make sense that he would die in a house fire and she wouldn't.

Linda and Todd Stermer
Linda and Todd Stermer Linda Stermer/Sandra Stermer

They say their parent's marriage had been rocky for some time and it all seemed to come to a head on the eve of the fire — when Todd and Linda got into a shouting match.

Erin Moriarty: Was that the worst fight you'd ever seen your parents in?

Trevor Stermer Yeah. … this was absolutely the worst. … All of us knew that this was gonna be the one that ended their marriage.

The fight, they say, was a familiar one: over finances and infidelity.

Trenton Stermer: It seems like he found out that she was having an affair, essentially and had a separate life.

Erin Moriarty: Were you ever unfaithful to Todd?

Linda Stermer: No.

Linda Stermer: Todd was an extremely jealous and possessive person.

Linda says she and Todd fought about money, because they were near financial ruin she says, thanks to Todd.

Linda Stermer: Todd owned his own business. He sold gloves and occasionally sold hunting suits … But he didn't like to work often. And I learned about him borrowing money from his mother. … And I said, "why would you do that? Why aren't you just going to work?" I was working in a dialysis facility. I had to be to work at 5:00 a.m.

Erin Moriarty: How much in debt was he?ibi

Linda Stermer: At the time of his death, $75,000. … He hadn't paid our mortgage in several months. … And he just blew money, just blew money.

But Trenton and Trevor say the real drain on the family's finances was Linda's obsession with horses. They claim their dad was upset to learn that Linda had a line of credit for $25,00, to support the 31 horses she had on their property.

Trenton Stermer: The horses were always a topic of discussion between them of it was running us dry.

Linda Stermer: I don't know where they would have gotten that idea from.

Linda claims she was actually making money boarding those horses.

Linda Stermer: The horses were self-sufficient. … Todd always told me that if I didn't make enough money with the horses that I couldn't have the horses.

Whatever they were arguing about, 24 hours later Todd was dead, and investigators were suspicious. They started taking a long hard look at Linda's actions on the day of the fire. For instance, she had gone to a gas station early that morning, and a clerk would later say it looked like Linda was pumping fuel not into her vehicle — but into a gas can. And in fact, a can was found by investigators in the Stermer's front yard.


Linda Stermer says her early morning trip to the gas station the day that the house fire killed her husband Todd was perfectly innocent.

Linda Stermer: We were out of milk.

She says she bought some groceries and topped off the gas in her SUV — and that's all she did. a receipt would later show she spent just over $11 at the pump.

Erin Moriarty: You didn't fill up the tank.

Linda Stermer: It didn't need a whole lot.

She claims she wanted to make sure there was plenty of gas for her sons, because when she got home, she woke them and told them to leave in her car.

Linda Stermer: I … told them that they could go to the movies with their friend. … I didn't want them hearing Todd and I argue.

Linda and Todd had been fighting since the previous day. She says their marriage was coming to an end, that she was getting ready to leave Todd that day and wanted the boys out of the way.

Linda Stermer: I just felt like being in the house with us watching me move out, was gonna be too much for them.

After 13 years of marriage, it was a decision that had been a long time in the making.

When Linda first met Todd in 1989, she says there was an instant attraction.

Linda Stermer: He was so beautiful, so charismatic. You could just see the light in his eyes.

They were both 25 when they started dating. Linda was separated at the time, with two young daughters: 3-year-old Ashley and 2-year-old Brittany. It was clear Todd wanted the whole package.

Linda Stermer: I said, "I'm in the middle of a divorce," and I said, "I have two little girls." And he says, "Well, that's perfect. I'll only make boys." [laughs] Like, what?

Linda and Todd Stermer
Linda and Todd Stermer on their wedding day. Linda Stermer

By the time they got married in August of 1993, Linda had given birth to their two sons, Trevor and Trenton.

Linda Stermer: He did not have to marry me. … We just wanted to be a family. … Todd was the epitome of family.

Trenton Stermer: He was a great man, great father. Coached all of us through as many sports as he could … and definitely a family man.

He was such a devoted family man, says Linda, he even offered to take in her nephew, Cory, to save him from a broken home.

Linda Stermer: Todd sat me down one night and he said, "Do you want him to come and live here with us? Maybe that would be good for him." 

Cory Pierce was 2 years old when they took him in.

Erin Moriarty: You miss your dad?

Cory Pierce: Yeah.He loved to play sports with us and hang out with us, he'd go out in the yard to play with us and he was really athletic.

Erin Moriarty: Did he ever treat any of these kids differently?

Linda Stermer: Oh, no. Anybody who he had ever, ever introduced his family to — "these are my sons, these are my daughters."

Erin Moriarty: It sounds at that point your relationship was pretty ideal.

Linda Stermer: Amazing. It was amazing.

But that happiness, says Linda, didn't last very long. It turns out Todd had a temper.

Ashley Gibson | Daughter: The first incident I just remember my stepdad, like, throwing a clothes basket of laundry … at my mom. I remember him going out with friends at night and my mom having to load all of us kids up in the car to go pick him up at a friend's house where he was drunk and just belligerent and screaming at her and ...

Brittany Gibson | Daughter: It got like so bad. It scared us. We were young then.

Ashley Gibson says that when she was about 11 years old and started speaking up, she became a target of that anger.

Erin Moriarty: What would he say to you Ashley?

Ashley Gibson: "You're a two-legged dog just like your mom. You're gonna be a whore just like she is."

Erin Moriarty: Would he hit you?

Ashley Gibson: Oh, yeah.

Erin Moriarty: With what?

Ashley Gibson: His hand, belts.  … Horse reigns. …  A phone in the middle of the forehead [cries].

Linda says Todd also hit her.

Linda Stermer: It wasn't a regular thing. … He would get extremely fired up and extremely frustrated. And he hit me one time and left a bruise on my cheek. … But he sent me flowers. … He told me how sorry he was. … And then you believe that it's never going to happen again, until it does.

But Trenton, Trevor and Cory say they never actually saw their father hit their sister, Ashley, or their mother.

Erin Moriarty: Did you see your dad ever be abusive to your mom?

Cory Pierce: No. I never seen him physically harm her.

Trenton Stermer: … we never saw a black eye or bruises.

Trevor Stermer: Our father definitely had a temper. And perhaps he grabbed her and squeezed her arm maybe a little too hard … But never any hitting.

Marti, Linda's mother, says she never really trusted Todd.

Marti Bakhuyzen: He could be charming. He could be the most charming man you've ever met. And he could turn and be the worst person in the world.

And Linda, she says, took the brunt of it.

Marti Bakhuyzen: He was very controlling.  … if anything went wrong, it was her fault.

Linda says she later found out that Todd had an arrest record dating back to before they were married. There were two convictions for misdemeanor drug charges, a DUI, and a conviction for misdemeanor assault and battery when he was 18 years old.

Marti Bakhuyzen: I went out there one time and … I says if anything ever happened to her, I know who to blame.

Erin Moriarty: Were you really worried he might hurt Linda?

Marti Bakhuyzen: Yes, I was.

Linda says not long before the fire, she was ready to call it quits, and started talking to a divorce attorney.

Stermer daughters
Linda Stermer's daughters Brittany, left, and Ashley Gibson,  believe their mother is innocent.  CBS News

Brittany Gibson: She told me that she had planned on leaving … it was getting, you know, to be too much.

On January 6, 2007, the night before the fire, then-20-year-old Ashley says she called the Stermer home to speak to her mother.

Ashley Gibson: I've never gotten to talk to anybody about this, so it's really hard for me …

Todd answered the phone.

Ashley Gibson: He said, "Your mom's not here." And he's, like, "but I had a conversation with God. … I'm not decided yet, but one of us is leaving in a body bag. And it's either me or your mom."


After Todd Stermer's death, Van Buren County Sheriff's detectives spent two years investigating — focusing on the troubled Stermer marriage, and the fact that Todd's wife Linda ran him over when he escaped the fire.

Then, on June 5, 2009, the prosecutor's office felt it had enough evidence to arrest Linda Stermer on charges of arson and murder.

Linda Stermer arrest photo
Van Buren County Sheriff's detectives took two years to put together their case. In 2009, Linda Stermer was charged with murder and arson.  Van Buren County Sheriff's Office

Trevor Stermer | Son: For so long we had all held the notion in our head that it was possible that she killed our father. … But when all the details and the evidence came out, it was just overwhelming.

On January 5, 2010, Linda went on trial. The evidence was mainly circumstantial, focusing on Linda's actions before and after the fire. Her sons testified she pushed them to go to the movies that Sunday morning.

Trevor Stermer: Saying, "You need to get up. … You need to go. You need to leave the house right now."

Trenton Stermer: I went to go say goodbye to our father —

Trevor Stermer: —she physically stopped us. She said, "No he's sleeping. Don't go over there."

They now believe their dad had been sedated.

Trevor Stermer: I believe that he was drugged just because he was clearly incapacitated in the living room.

Trevor and Trenton Stermer
Linda and Todd's sons, from left, Cory Pierce, Trevor and Trenton Stermer. They believe their mother is guilty. CBS News

Bolstering that theory was Kate Fox, a former friend and coworker of Linda's. Fox testified that Linda confided in her, saying she was afraid investigators would find a coffee cup she used to try to drug Todd.

But Linda's trial attorney, Jeffrey Getting says, there was no evidence that Todd was drugged.

Jeff Getting: The evidence introduced at the trial was … contained in the autopsy report, which didn't find any significant evidence of sedatives …

But Kate Fox also testified that Linda had discussed ways of getting rid of her husband, including running him over with a car.

Erin Moriarty: Did you?

Linda Stermer: No. … Kate really hated me at that point.

Linda says that by trial their friendship had ended, and that Fox lied on the witness stand because, among other things, she was angry at Linda for changing her shift at work.

Linda Stermer: My lawyer asked her why she was so angry at me … And she says, "she lied to me. She lied to me. She changed shifts without me."

But Kate Fox also provided a motive for murder, telling jurors that, at the time of the fire, Linda was having an affair with a coworker named Chris Williams. That testimony was backed up by Williams himself, who claimed that he and Linda had a "romantic relationship" while she was "a married woman."

Erin Moriarty: Were you having an affair with Chris Williams?

Linda Stermer:  I started seeing Chris Williams romantically, but it wasn't until after I lost my husband.

Erin Moriarty: Why would a man you went out with turn around and lie at trial?

Linda Stermer: Unless he was manipulated by someone, I don't know.

Linda says that Kate Fox was so angry, she convinced Williams to lie about when the relationship began. The defense presented evidence that Fox had a history of mental illness and her own brother took the stand and said her stories couldn't be trusted.

Stephen Berry | Kate Fox's brother: I do know my sister she can manipulate the — the truth to whatever she wants it to be. … And yeah, she will lie if it's — if it's to her benefit.

But it may have been Linda's early morning trip to the gas station that was most damaging to her case.  Remember, she says she went out to buy milk and top off the gas tank in her car. But a gas station clerk testified she thought she saw Linda at the back of her car, seemingly pumping gas not into her vehicle, but into a gas can, like the one found on the scene. It's something Linda denies.

Linda Stermer: It was frigid. And I had winter gloves and a warmer coat back there. … So I got my gloves out to pump gas.

As for the gas can found at the house, Linda says they lived on a farm, and there were gas cans everywhere. 

A jailhouse informant testified that while in custody, Linda told her she started the fire while Todd was asleep. Another informant said Linda hit Todd over the head with a blunt object. Getting tried to poke holes in their testimony.

Jeff Getting: They were inconsistent. They both had problems — with mental illness.

Todd Stermer
Todd Stermer died on the scene from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.  Sandra Stermer

The prosecutor argued that Linda started the fire by dousing Todd with gasoline — and his sweatpants, underwear and socks did test positive. But defense attorney Getting never called his own fire expert to refute any of that.

Linda Stermer: I begged him numerous times for an expert and he says, "We don't need an expert, Linda. We will use their expert for our benefit,"

Getting says his plan was to agree the fire was arson, but to convince jurors that it was Todd who started it.

Jeff Getting: Todd is in the middle of the fire. … The best defense in this case is Todd set the fire and was accidentally killed in the fire that he set.

In fact, Todd Stermer had twice been suspected by police of arson in the past. Two other properties he owned mysteriously burned to the ground. Both times, Todd was reportedly in debt and needed money. But Todd was never charged, and in his closing argument, the prosecutor called the claim nonsense and reminded the jury that when Todd escaped the burning house, Linda ran him over. He also said Linda owned two cell phone and should have been able to call 911.

Linda Stermer: And he pointed his finger in my face just inches away from my face. And he says, "She's a liar, a manipulator, a diabolical murderer."

That may have crossed a line but Getting never objected. Just hours after the case went to the jury, the judge read their verdict:

JUDGE: Count one, guilty as charged. Count two, guilty as charged.

Linda Stermer: All I could think was I have to be strong because my mom's right behind me.

Linda's sons say the jury got it right.

Trenton Stermer: We knew it in our hearts that she was guilty. … And it felt like we could finally breathe again.

Linda's daughter, Ashley, has barely spoken to her brothers since that day.

Ashley Gibson: I lost my brothers, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles. … because I believed in my mom.

Linda was sentenced to life without parole, but she was determined to fight her conviction and reunite her family:

LINDA STERMER IN COURT: I am determined and hopeful that I will get back to my children someday.

Determined to free her mother, Linda's daughter, Brittany, begged well-respected fire investigator Robert Trenkle to reexamine her mother's case.

Brittany Gibson: He said, "If there's any doubt in your mind at all whatsoever that your mom did this, don't hire me. … because if she did it, I will find out."


Erin Moriarty: When you went to prison, did you think, "this is it?"

Linda Stermer: No. My lawyer told me, he says … "Linda we will not give up. … We're going to fight this."

Over the next 5 years, Linda Stermer filed appeal after appeal in state court, all the way to Michigan's Supreme Court; all of them denied.

Linda Stermer: It was devastating. It was really devastating.

Then she turned to the federal court and took advantage of a prison resource: the law library.

Linda Stermer: I was in that law library almost every single day of the week. And I learned as much as I could. And I had people on the outside who were mailing me information on wrongful arson convictions and giving me an idea on where to go with things.

Linda wrote her own petition to the federal court. In part, she blamed her conviction on her own defense attorney, who had chosen not to hire a fire expert. An expert, like veteran fire investigator Robert Trenkle, who would have testified there wasn't enough evidence to prove the fire that killed Todd Stermer was deliberately set.

Erin Moriarty: How would you describe the investigation that was made into this case? Adequate?

Robert Trenkle: No, absolutely not adequate. Inadequate. Just the opposite.

For example, Trenkle says, investigators failed to sift through the remains of the house and took very few samples of debris.

Stermer house fire
The remains of the Stermer home following the January 7, 2007, fire. Michigan State Police

Robert Trenkle: If you think the fire started the living room, it started in the center of that living room … you're going to have to take that floor and move it out to the outside. Look at what kind of burn patterns are on that floor to give you that reason to be able to believe that … and then take a sample and see if you have something.

Trenkle says the evidence doesn't support the state's theory that Linda doused Todd with gasoline and then set him on fire.

Robert Trenkle: I've asked probably 30 or 40 people who are firefighters, investigators … And they all laughed when I told them about somebody getting out of a building after they … had gasoline poured all over them.

And when asked about the gasoline found on Todd's clothing? Well, Trenkle says it was likely a case of cross-contamination. Remember that neighbor who came to the rescue that day? He recycled auto parts for a living, and a shirt he used to cover Todd also tested positive for gas.

And then there's the fact that no gasoline was found on Linda's clothing.

Robert Trenkle: If you get one little speck on your finger, you try to wash it off and wash it off to wash it off, it's still there. So, it should've been smelled on Ms. Stermer. And it should certainly have been on something that she was wearing.

Trenkle says there simply isn't enough evidence to prove arson, but even if there was, the more likely suspect was Todd Stermer himself.

Erin Moriarty: And why do you believe that?

Robert Trenkle: Because of his burn injuries … It certainly shows that Mr. Stermer was in the area of the fire.

In 2016, an attorney filed Linda's amended petition, which included Trenkle's findings. Two years later, a judge responded — granting her another day in court.

In October 2018, Federal Judge Arthur J. Tarnow held an evidentiary hearing in Linda's case.

Linda Stermer: I knew that the science was the key. … There is no evidence to support a theory of arson.

Erin Moriarty: What do you believe started that fire then?

Linda Stermer: I believe that something came out of that fireplace - a coal or a log or something fell out, popped out, and started that floor on fire.

The state's fire expert testified that he followed proper investigative procedures and didn't take samples of the remains because he saw no evidentiary value in them.

When Jeff Getting took the stand to defend his work, the judge was quite stern with him.

Jeff Getting: He was critical of me … He was critical of the entirety of — of this trial.

But Getting says he still believes he presented the only case he could have—that Todd Stermer started the fire that ended his life.

Jeff Getting: This defense to the case was the one that I felt, my client felt, we together felt gave us the best likelihood of success.

Two months later, just before Christmas 2018, Judge Tarnow issued his ruling.

He found the prosecutor was wrong telling jurors that Linda had two cell phones when there was no evidence of that and he also found fault with the defense, saying Getting failed his client by not calling a fire expert. The judge also pointed out that although Kate Fox's trial testimony was incriminating, she did suffer from mental health problems, and that her brother testified she was known to be untruthful. The judge also agreed that if there was an arson, "significant evidence pointed the finger of suspicion at Mr. Stermer."

In December 2018, nearly 12 years after the fire and after spending almost 9 years in prison, Linda Stermer's conviction was overturned and Judge Tarnow set her free.

Linda Stermer is released from prison
In 2018, nearly 12 years after the fire, a federal judge decided Linda Stermer didn't get a fair trial. He vacated her conviction, Linda was released from prison. WWMT

Linda Stermer: It was an amazing, amazing day.

Linda Stermer: Walking out to that parking lot and seeing a real vehicle that I could get into and knowing that I could sit in the back seat without being handcuffed and shackled was the most amazing feeling.

Erin Moriarty: But is it over?

Linda Stermer: No, it is not.


Erin Moriarty: I notice that you call her Linda. You don't call her mom.

Trevor Stermer: She's not our mother now. She's not mom anymore, no.

For nearly nine years, Trevor Stermer and his brothers went on with their lives, believing their father's killer was behind bars. And then, in December 2018, a federal judge set their mother free.

Erin Moriarty: The fact that a judge took a look at the evidence, and didn't feel she had a fair trial, thought she might be innocent, that doesn't change the way you feel?

Cory Pierce: No. I know that she did what she did.

But their sisters, who believe in their mother's innocence, are afraid they could lose her again.

Ashley Gibson: I have no faith in the justice system right now, to be honest with you. 

Erin Moriarty: What's the worst thing that could happen.

Brittany Gibson: They'll send her back to prison.

That's a real possibility. Linda Stermer has been free for a little over a year, but Michigan's Attorney General is appealing the federal decision and is asking for Linda's conviction to be reinstated.

That was a real possibility. Linda had been free since December 20, 2018, but Michigan's attorney general appealed the federal decision and asked for Linda's conviction to be reinstated. Her new attorney Wolfgang Mueller said he would fight it.

Wolfgang Mueller: I think I have a pretty good B.S. meter. And I believe her completely in terms of her story and then how the science just doesn't add up to an arson. … And I think she was truly — one, factually innocent of this crime, and two, the whole system betrayed her.

Linda's future now rested with the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Mueller would have 15 minutes to convince a panel of judges that Linda didn't get a fair trial. The state would get the same amount of time to argue that she did.

Erin Moriarty: Are you scared?

Linda Stermer: I am. I'd be ignorant not to. … I know what's at stake now. … I know what the prison system is like.

On December 3, 2019, Linda Stermer, her daughters, and her mother were in Cincinnati, Ohio, to attend the hearing that will decide her fate. 

She is hoping her sons will also attend, even though they won't be in her corner.

Erin Moriarty: You're thinking about going to the hearing?

Trenton Stermer: Yeah.

Trevor Stermer: Potentially. … I'd like to see how she weasels her way out of this...

But when the hearing began, no one from Todd Stermer's side of the family appeared. Camera's weren't allowed in federal court, but an audio recording was later made public.

When it was Wolfgang Mueller's turn, he argued passionately on Linda's behalf, saying she never had a chance at a fair murder trial without a fire expert.

Wolfgang Mueller: I felt the need to tell the judge that in a case involving fire science, you have to have an expert to be able to defend yourself adequately.

Mueller also argued that the evidence against Linda was weak and circumstantial

WOLFGANG MUELLER [AUDIO FROM HEARING]: Two jailhouse witnesses and a co-employee. We didn't have any strong evidence in this case.

But one of the judges pushed back, troubled by what Linda did after the fire.

JUDGE [AUDIO FROM HEARING]: Weak evidence? I find the case astonishing. I mean, the car going back and forth, randomly hitting the guy. You're calling that weak evidence?

The judge's comments left Linda Stermer worried, and visibly shaken.

Linda Stermer
Linda Stermer awaits a Federal Court decision in her case. CBS News

Linda Stermer: When the judge concentrated on the fact that I had driven over my husband, that's something I've never been able to figure out how it happened.

Later, she was angry.

Linda Stermer: He said that I ran over my husband, over and over, back and forth. That was absolutely not the case.

Erin Moriarty: Did your heart sink a bit when you heard him say that?

Wolfgang Mueller: Just made me think he doesn't have, at that instant, a complete grasp of all the facts. But I trust that his clerks have gone over and will pore over every single page of the transcript, as will all the judges and their clerks and their staff.

While she awaited the court's decision, Linda Stermer was just trying to enjoy every moment she was a free woman.  She lives with her daughter Ashley, is working and saving money, believing one day she will buy her own home and be able to heal and reunite her family    

Linda Stermer: There were times while I was in prison that I wanted to give up. … The only thing that kept me from doing it was that that was such a selfish act, and there would never be a possibility of putting my family back together or making anyone feel whole again.

Erin Moriarty: Do you think at any point you'd have a relationship her?

Trenton Stermer: No. No. No.

Trevor Stermer: Absolutely not.

Trenton Stermer: No.

Trevor Stermer: It kills me that he can't be a part of my children's life anymore, that they, they don't have that privilege of having a grandfather like him. It's devastating.

Erin Moriarty: What will you tell your daughter?

Cory Pierce: I'll just tell her what happened, and that I think it was best to keep her out of our life.

Ashley and Brittany are heartbroken and believe that by defending their mother they have forever lost their brothers.

Erin Moriarty: Do you plan on talking to them again?

Brittany Gibson: After this? I don't think they'll ever talk to me again.

Erin Moriarty: That had to be a tough decision then to talk to us. … why did you decide to talk?

Brittany Gibson: Because I love my mom and I don't think that she is guilty.

In May 2020 the appellate court ruled Linda Stermer's conviction would not be reinstated. But prosecutors decided to try her a second time.

Her new trial is scheduled to begin March 9, 2021.

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