Linda Stermer, a Michigan woman accused of setting a fire to her family home and murdering her husband, speaks out for the first time in 48 HOURS: “The Death of Todd Stermer” to be broadcast Saturday, Feb. 1 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
On Jan. 7, 2007, while Stermer and her husband, Todd, were home, their house burst into flames. Linda Stermer got out safely. Her husband was also able to get out, but he was horribly burned. Linda Stermer says she got in the family’s van to get help. And then she saw her husband had gotten out of the house.
“He’s jumping around, and he’s patting himself. His skin is burnt terribly,” Linda Stermer says. “I can’t touch him….And so I get back in the van. And I lost sight of him.”
But, in a shocking twist, Todd Stermer, after escaping the fire, was run over by his wife. She maintains it was an accident. Prosecutors and her sons disagree.
Did she know she ran him over, Moriarty asks.
“No,” Stermer says.
48 HOURS takes viewers inside the case that split a family and continues to play out in the courts. The couple had four children and a nephew who lived with them in their blended family. The three young men in the family side with prosecutors and say Linda Stermer is a killer. The two young women, Linda’s daughters from a previous marriage, say their mother is innocent. The sisters do not talk with their brothers.
“Our mother murdered our father …. she set the house on fire, doused him in gasoline, then after the fact when he managed to get out of the house, she ran him over with her van,” says Trevor Stermer.
“I lost my brothers … because I believed in my mom,” says Linda Stermer’s daughter Ashley Gibson.
The investigation into what happened revealed a fractured family and a couple on the brink of breaking up. After the fire and death of Todd Stermer, there were allegations of domestic abuse, battles over money and accusations that Linda was having an affair.
In 2009 Linda Stermer was charged with arson and murder. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Stermer has maintained throughout she doesn’t know how the fire started and that running over her husband was purely an accident. While in prison, she put together her own appeal. With the help of a new attorney she convinced a judge she had an unfair trial and was freed in 2018. But authorities in Michigan are appealing that decision. Stermer is awaiting a court’s decision on her fate.
Did she do it or was it just a tragic accident? 48 HOURS and Moriarty investigate the case through interviews with Stermer, her sons, her daughters, her past and present attorneys and more.
“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,” Moriarty says to Stermer. “What, you just happened to have that kind of bad luck?”
“Bad luck doesn’t even describe it,” Stermer says.
48 HOURS: “The Death of Todd Stermer” is produced by Judy Rybak. Alicia Tejada is the field producer. Kat Teurfs is the associate producer. Jud Johnston and Grayce Arlotta-Berner are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.