Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder in the Heartland’ aired an episode titled ‘The Kind Sister.’ The episode detailed the events and circumstances leading up to the brutal murder of Elizabeth Baune, a beloved teacher. Elizabeth was known for being endearing with children and adults alike. According to her acquaintances, she was also an inspiration for several students she had met in her long career as a teacher.
On November 7, 2012, she was found dead in her home by a relative who had been residing with her son at Elizabeth’s residence. The investigation into the horrific crime revealed the involvement of Elizabeth’s close relative, Michael Culley, and his accomplice, Jonathon Hernandez. If you are curious to find out what happened to the two convicts in the case, we have you covered.
Who Are Michael Culley and Jonathon Hernandez?
Michael Culley had been suffering from a drug addiction issue. He was offered shelter by his relative to help him tackle the problem. Michael’s mother also lived with them at 1619 Baker Lane, in Payette, Idaho. Elizabeth was kind and forgiving and extended her help to the mother-son duo. However, Michael paid her back by betraying her.
Michael’s mother, Brenda Jo Cloud, had reportedly called the Payette Police Department when she discovered Elizabeth’s body in the house on November 7, 2012. According to her statements, Ms. Cloud had dropped off her son at the library on November 6, 2012, and that was the last time she had seen him before Elizabeth’s death.
According to the letter written by Brenda Cloud, reportedly registered as a piece of evidence, Michael’s drug addiction had begun when he was a teenager. This addiction persisted well in his adulthood and was the root of Michael’s criminal intentions that ultimately led to the death of Elizabeth Baune. Jonathon Hernandez was an acquaintance of Michael Culley and reportedly also a drug addict. In her testimony, Hernandez’s sister had supposedly stated that he had never before showcased any violent behavior.
Where Are Michael Culley and Jonathon Hernandez Now?
Both Michael Culley and Jonathon Hernandez were arrested in November 2012 in connection to the death of Elizabeth Baune. They were subsequently charged with first-degree murder. During their sentencing, both Culley and Hernandez maintained that their primary motive had been a robbery. However, there were conflicting statements in both their testimonies.
According to Hernandez, Culley allegedly had entered the house on his own at the beginning. Culley maintained that the two of them had gone into the house at the same time and had accidentally woken up Elizabeth. Culley also claimed to have stabbed Elizabeth in the back and chest. His claims, however, did not stand ground, based on a letter he had reportedly written to his grandfather.
In the letter, he had mentioned that he “drove the knife into her brain so she would not suffer.” During the sentencing of Culley and Hernandez, the court accepted statements from experts and entertained testimonies from family members. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara Richart provided details about the convicts’ behavior while they were detained. Hernandez had reportedly punched a Payette County jailer.
Culley, on the other hand, had been involved in a scheme to try and sue his jailers. The defense attorneys relied on Culley’s and Hernandez’s tragic childhoods to explain the factors which might have explained their involvement in the crime. Opinions of expert witness Dr. Richard Cervantes were also included by the defense attorneys to support the accomplice’s claims.
Michael Culley and Jonathon Hernandez were sentenced to 45 years to life in prison in March 2014, after the two of them pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Elizabeth Baune. Michael Culley is currently serving his Saguaro Correctional Center under the Idaho Department of Correction, while Jonathon Hernandez is in Idaho State Correctional Institution. Both of them will be eligible for parole in 2057.