CBS’ ’48 Hours: The Death of Todd Stermer,’ chronicles an arson case – the kind which is really difficult to prove and even more challenging to defend. It details the circumstances surrounding a fire that occurred in a Michigan house in early 2007. The residents of it, the Stermer’s, Todd and Linda, were in their home when it burst into flames. Although Linda was able to get out without a scratch on her body, Todd, who also got out, was severely burned. Highlighting the crime, the suspected story behind it, along with the trial and conviction of the alleged perpetrator and the aftermath, this episode has it all. Let’s find out the details!
How Did Todd Stermer Die?
Born on November 22, 1964, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Todd Stermer seemingly had it all before he tragically passed away at the age of 42. As a graduate of Portage Northern High School and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, he was in love with sports, the outdoors, and nature, so much so that he even coached children and built his own home in Michigan. He resided in the 120-acre property in Lawrence Township near Kalamazoo, with his wife of 14 years, Linda, their young ones, and 31 horses. Todd was the father of five children – Trenton, Trevor, Cory Stermer, along with Brittany and Ashley Gibson.
And with them all, he lived a happy, rural life. That is, until all of it went away from him in the blink of an eye on January 7, 2007. That evening, the Stermer’s residence caught fire. According to Linda, when she heard her husband scream and saw the mess, she ran outside her home with only one thought in her head – she had to drive to the nearest neighbors and ask for help. Sadly, she didn’t have her jacket or shoes on her, let alone her cellphone, and apparently, in the chaos of it all, she didn’t even think of dialing the emergency services.
As she reached her van and started to drive away, it got stuck in the mud. It was raining, and the tires couldn’t get much traction, so she kept on trying and trying. When it came out, Linda saw that her husband had escaped the fire and that she had somehow run over him. That’s when she called 911. Emergency workers tried to save Todd, but he died on the scene. According to official records, Todd Stermer’s cause of death was the severe burns on his body, but he also suffered from blunt-force trauma that was caused by the accident that followed.
Who Killed Todd Stermer?
Once the investigators arrived at the scene, they immediately suspected what they saw as a clear sign of foul play. Although Linda maintained that she had no idea how the fire started, she told the insurance company that her husband had an oil lamp and various candles burning in the house that day. This, of course, seemed peculiar to them, so they began looking into it further, only to uncover a long list of accusations in between the couple. Their marriage was very troubled, full of domestic abuse allegations, battles over money, and extramarital affairs.
It was only two years later, in 2009, that the detectives believed that they had enough evidence against Linda to charge and arrest her for Todd’s murder. A big part of this evidence was the fact that she had run over him after he escaped the fire. In 2010, when Linda’s case went to trial, the prosecutors painted a picture of how she doused her husband with gasoline and then set him on fire the day after discovering that he was having an affair. They also alleged that she had two cell phones in the van, which she failed to use to call for help at any time during that evening.
Another thing that they pinpointed was that Todd’s blood was on the van’s front bumper and undercarriage, meaning that he had been hit really hard. With all this, the jury found Linda guilty of murder and sentenced her to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2018, though, after eight long years, she successfully appealed her case, and a federal judge overturned her conviction, stating that she had been given an unfair trial. So now, her case will be retried where a final decision will be made. (Featured Image Credit: CBS News/48 Hours)
Read More: Where Is Linda Stermer Now?