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Murder of Mary Elizabeth Hermann by Justin Lunsford investigated on Reasonable Doubt

Mugshot of Justin Lunsford
Justin Lunsford was convicted of the murder of Mary Elizabeth Hermann. Pic credit: Arizona Dept. of Corrections

Reasonable Doubt is examining the 2008 murder of Mary Elizabeth “Liz” Hermann by Justin Lunsford in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Hermann is sometimes referred to in reports and documents as Mary Polger, which had been her husband’s surname; however, the pair reportedly separated a short time before her murder.

Lunsford was convicted of Hermann’s murder in 2011, but he has continuously maintained his innocence, and his family and friends have insisted that he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice. The team at Reasonable Doubt has decided there is enough “doubt” in the conviction for them to investigate the case.

On July 8, 2008, Cave Creek firefighters discovered the gruesome remains of Hermann in a house that had been badly damaged in a blaze. She had been stabbed more than 50 times, and her throat had been slit with such ferocity that she was almost decapitated. Her body was naked, and she had stab wounds on her head, neck, abdomen, back, and groin.

Hermann’s cat and dog had also been stabbed to death, and her truck had been driven to another location and deliberately set on fire. The investigators concluded that the fires at the house and the truck had been started deliberately with an accelerant such as gasoline.

Justin Lunsford was the number one suspect in Mary Hermann murder

The cops soon learned that Lunsford was one of the last people to have seen her alive. The previous evening they were spotted leaving a Cave Creek bar, and they were known to have then gone to purchase drugs together.

An eyewitness came forward to say they had seen a man in a green truck leaving Hermann’s truck just as the vehicle caught fire. Lunsford’s truck matched the description of the one spotted by the witness and the cops found a can of gasoline in the vehicle during a search.

According to the Phoenix New Times, a friend of Lunsford’s told the police that Hermann was murdered by drug dealers, who had then framed his buddy. The friend also claimed that Lunsford had set the two fires, but had done so to destroy the evidence that would frame him.

The cops and the prosecutors weren’t buying this story, so they decided to press ahead with charging Lunsford with murder.

In the spring of 2011, Lunsford was expected to go on trial for first-degree murder, arson of an occupied structure, burglary, arson of property, two counts of animal cruelty. If a jury had found him guilty, he would have likely faced the death penalty.

However, shortly before the trial, Lunsford agreed to enter a guilty plea. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and one count of arson of an occupied structure, which led to him receiving a reduced sentence of 23 years.

More from Reasonable Doubt

Follow the links to read about more murders where the suspect’s conviction has come under reasonable doubt.

Roosevelt Myles was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the murder of 16-year-old Shaharian Brandon. However, he claims he was framed for the murder by the Chicago Police Department.

Tammy Lynn Baker was 8-months pregnant when a pipe bomb left outside her apartment killed her and her baby in 1997. Her ex-boyfriend Mike Johson is currently serving time for her murder, but did he do it?

Reasonable Doubt airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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