A Bryan woman convicted in 2009 of coaxing her teenage boyfriend to kill her mother recently committed suicide in prison, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirmed.
Kelly Sifuentez, 48, was found hanging in her cell at the Crain Unit in Gatesville about 11:30 a.m. May 26, said Robert Hurst, a public information officer with the prison system.
A correction officer immediately removed a bedsheet from her neck and tried to revive her, officials said, adding that she was taken to Coryell Memorial Hospital and then Scott & White Hospital for further treatment. Her family was notified and she was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m.
Sifuentez was six years into serving a 30-year prison term for soliciting boyfriend Christian Olsen, who was 19 at the time, to commit capital murder. He was charged with killing Sifuentez's 63-year-old mother, Geraldine Lloyd, and burying her in the woman's backyard in early 2007.
But that charge wasn't brought to trial. Instead, prosecutors went with a murder that happened across the street from Lloyd six months later. Olsen was convicted of breaking into 68-year-old Etta Jean Westbrook's home and killing her in June 2007.
At the time of his trial in 2009, Olsen faced the murder charge for Lloyd's death, but the case was closed after Sifuentez admitted to soliciting Olsen to commit the murder.
Olsen's defense attorneys argued that he had been manipulated by Sifuentez into committing the murders and that she was in her mid-30s when she began her relationship with then-14-year-old Olsen. The defense argued that Sifuentez used sex to compel Olsen to commit the murders and steal money from the victims.
Suicide in jail
As with all in-custody deaths at Texas prisons, the Office of the Inspector General was notified and will conduct an investigation into Sifuentez's case, Hurst said. He declined to discuss details about the time she served or the manner in which she died.
Between January and April of this year, nine suicides were reported across 109 TDCJ facilities where just under 150,000 offenders live, Hurst said. Thirty-one Texas prisoners killed themselves in 2014.
Authorities later determined that Sifuentez and Olsen lived in Lloyd's house for months with Sifuentez' daughter after the murder. The daughter briefly dated Olsen while the two were in middle school, according to testimony during the trial.
Court documents show that Sifuentez was given control -- per a request made in Lloyd's will -- to her mother's estate in January 2008, more than half a year after Lloyd was found dead. After failing to file required documents within the time period set by law, Sifuentez lost control of the estate in 2009 and it was sold at auction, the documents state.
Olsen, a former Bryan High student, was never prosecuted for Lloyd's death, but evidence supporting his guilt was presented by the state in the punishment phase of his 2009 trial for the murder of Westbrook. A medical examiner said Lloyd was struck in the head so hard with an unknown object that it cracked her skull in half. Investigators testified Olsen struck Westbrook in the head at least 25 times with a metal object, then choked her with enough force to crush her voice box.
A jury of four men and eight women deliberated for about five hours, then sentenced Olsen to death by lethal injection.
Retrial still set
Donna Vandiver, a criminal justice expert at Texas State University, was one of the defense's key witnesses. She concluded that Sifuentez's actions toward Olsen were consistent with the way a female sex offender "grooms" her victims, but Vandiver was never heard from by the jury. Prosecutors argued that because Vandiver hadn't spoken with Sifuentez or Olsen, she wasn't qualified to testify. District Judge Steve Smith agreed and didn't let her take the stand.
Four years later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Olsen's death sentence. Appeals Judge Michael Keasler wrote, "[Vandiver's] testimony would have educated the jury concerning the harmful effects and influence that a relationship like the one between Sifuentez and Olsen could have on a teenaged boy, and the typical behavioral problems exhibited by the victims of such relationships."
Opening statements for Olsen's retrial are set for Nov. 2, 2015. Because the appeals court upheld the jury's 2009 verdict convicting Olsen of capital murder, the retrial can only end two ways -- life in prison or another death sentence.
Huntsville-based attorney Frank Blazek, Olsen's lawyer, declined to discuss how he thought Sifuentez' suicide will impact the retrial, saying he didn't want to say anything that might prejudice a jury. The district attorney's office also declined to comment.
Three capital murder cases are pending in Brazos County; in two of those crimes, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.