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Money? Drugs? Jealousy? What really drove one woman to stage a man’s death? Jamie Grachek recently discussed the events leading up to the home invasion that left John Grachek dead on Easter Sunday.
“I have a lot of regrets,” Jamie told "Snapped: Behind Bars," airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen. “I regret what happened that night. I made a mistake. A really bad mistake, but we’re not all perfect.”
It was Easter on March 31, 2013, in Riverside, Ohio. At around 10:30 p.m., a call was made to police, where dispatchers heard a man shouting, followed by the sounds of gunshots ringing out. When authorities arrived at the scene, they found a woman crying over the body of 45-year-old John Grachek in the front yard. Though he sustained bullet wounds to the chest and thigh, he was still alive.
The woman at his side was his girlfriend, 40-year-old Nicole Price.
Before the horror that befell John Grachek took place, he was described as a larger-than-life kind of man from Fremont, Ohio. He’d found success after opening his own plumbing company back in 1990, and one year later, he married his first wife and had three children.
“He was a very funny and loud, outgoing individual,” his daughter Ashlee Grachek told producers. “And he had a big heart.”
After 13 years of marriage, John and his wife called it quits. But in 2004, he met Ohio-born Jamie Grachek, who was 14 years his junior.
Jamie came from a large family. Though they didn’t have money, she described the household where she was raised as a happy one. But in the eighth grade, Jamie dropped out of school when she became pregnant. By the time she met John in 2004, she had five children, two of whom she’d placed for adoption. John was willing to step up to the plate and care for Jamie’s three children as if they were his own.
After only two or three months of knowing one another, Jamie and John married. They went on to have two more children.
After 11 years of marriage, the relationship grew to be tense. Jamie claimed John could be violent and that he’d take his moods out on her and the family. Those closest to John said he was overwhelmed with being the sole breadwinner of the sizeable household while Jamie remained unemployed.
“Jamie was using drugs,” said John’s daughter, Ashlee. “And being neglectful to her children, and my dad stepped in and said that wasn’t going to be the life they were going to live.”
Jamie, however, denies that drugs and neglect were a factor in the crumbling of the marriage.
In 2012, the couple separated. Jamie became strapped for money, and because of the financial strain, she wound up with no electricity in the house. Consequently, the state stepped in and removed the children from the home. Despite Jamie and John going their separate ways, John applied to get custody of the children to get them out of foster care.
That summer, he met Nicole Price, and it didn’t take long for them to move in with each other. Four months later, someone shot John at their home.
“We spent Easter together. John was relaxing on the couch, and I was in the kitchen,” Price said. “John got up to use the restroom, and that’s when I heard a knock at the door.”
Nicole answered the door but didn’t recognize the man with a gun pointed directly at her. John ran in, and after a short struggle, the unknown man shot John. As the unknown shooter fled, Nicole saw a second man also running away.
John tried to give chase but collapsed in the front yard.
Neighbors told detectives they’d witnessed the suspects running into a parked car nearby and that a third person drove off into the night. However, local officers pulled over a speeding vehicle that matched the description given to detectives. The driver was none other than Jamie Grachek, with the two suspects in tow.
The men were identified as 29-year-old Gary Webb and 24-year-old Jacob Gipson. Price placed Webb as the shooter.
After police brought the three passengers back to the station, the news had come: John Grachek died at the hospital.
“It was terrible,” said Price. “It was the worst day of my life.”
In a videotaped interrogation, Webb claimed they’d initially gone to John's house to purchase heroin.
“And the next thing I know, they’re in there fighting over a gun,” Webb said about John and Gipson. “I don’t know if Jake had the gun or if he had the gun, but the gunshots started going off.”
But police didn’t buy this story, noting that there was neither evidence nor anything indicative in John’s history pointing toward an alleged drug deal.
“Well, that’s a lie,” Gipson told detectives in his interview. “I never shot nobody.” Gipson placed the blame with Webb, saying the gun went off during a short scuffle.
Investigators learned that Jamie and Webb didn’t know one another but that Gipson knew them both. They also discovered text messages revealing a romantic relationship between Jamie and Gipson, something Jamie denies today.
According to Jamie, she received a phone call at around 9:00 p.m. from Gipson shortly before the murder.
“It was Easter Sunday, and Jacob was calling my phone,” said Jamie. “He was talking about, ‘We gotta get some money, somehow.’ It was kind of like a spur of the moment thing.”
Jamie and Gipson, who were both struggling financially, agreed to rob a local drug dealer for some quick money. Wanting the extra muscle, Gipson had Jamie pick up his friend, Gary Webb. Jamie waited in the car while the men attempted to steal from the dealer but to no avail. Jamie claimed the victim jumped out a window.
“I took a couple of Xanax,” said Jamie. “So, I was kind of out of it.”
Thinking of whom they could possibly rob, Jamie suggested her estranged husband, John Grachek.
“I thought maybe John would have had some money on him,” said Jamie. “Jacob acted like it was a good idea to do that, and I was kind of hesitant, but I went along with it. I wish I wouldn’t have.”
Jamie later told detectives that the suspects made plans to split the cash, though they took no money from John’s home. Though robbery was the alleged motive, investigators looked at other likely theories, including John’s decision to cut Jamie out of his life once he began dating Price.
According to Price, Jamie couldn’t accept that John had moved on. Jamie harassed John, forcing him to change his phone number and block Jamie and her phony social media accounts. But Jamie claims it was the other way around.
“After we broke up, he would, like, stalk me,” said Jamie. “Like, he would be sitting in my driveway at six o’clock in the morning, just sitting there… He didn’t want to believe it was over, even when he was with Nicole.”
Price, meanwhile, said that Jamie’s erratic behavior escalated in the months leading up to John’s murder, including driving on their front lawn and cutting up the grass in the middle of the night.
Jamie admitted this, calling the gesture “childish and dumb.”
Furthermore, Price offered her own theory as to what drove Jamie to plan the murder: the fact that just one week before Easter Sunday, the courts awarded John custody of the children. Ever since the kids’ placement in foster care, John attended every scheduled visitation and took every step per the state to get the children placed in his care. Jamie Grachek, however, had not.
The final custody hearing was scheduled eight days after John’s death, with plans for the children to be released into his care the next day.
According to police, witnesses at the previous court hearing heard Jamie say she would kill John if he won custody over the children.
“I did not want John dead,” Jamie maintains from prison. “I knew that he was going to get custody… I wanted them [the children] to be in a home with people they knew.”
Jamie was charged with complicity to commit murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and felonious assault. Webb and Gipson were accused of the same but maintained it was a robbery gone wrong.
“I thought that this was the end of my life,” said Jamie. “I’d never see my kids grow up.”
Jamie Grachek pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, complicity to commit aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary. She agreed to a flat time of 21 years, meaning she couldn’t receive credit for time served or good behavior.
Webb and Gipson pleaded guilty to murder charges. Webb is currently serving 18-to-life, while Gipson serves 15-to-life in prison.
Producers gave Jamie the chance to say something to John’s children if they could hear her today.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry that your dad’s gone. I’m sorry about what happened,” said Jamie. “I wish I could go back and change it but I can’t. And I understand why you hate me, because if I was you, I would hate me, too.”
Jamie expects to be released in 2035 and plans to open a women’s shelter when she gets out. Her youngest children remain in the care of relatives.
For more on this case and others like it, watch "Snapped: Behind Bars," airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.
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