An Ohio woman has married a man convicted of murdering her half-brother after writing him a letter while he was in jail to forgive him.
Crystal Strauss got hitched to John Tiedjen, 57, earlier this month after he was freed on bond awaiting a retrial for murdering Brian McGary, 18, in April 1989.
McGary was Strauss’s half-sibling – they shared the same mom – and Tiedjen’s roommate at the time of his fatal shooting and stabbing after the men spent a night drinking heavily and smoking weed. He was also Tiedjen’s stepbrother, and the two men had grown up together.
The convict’s romance with Straus began with a letter she wrote to him in prison in which she offered forgiveness in her brother’s death, News 5 in Cleveland reported. She ultimately came to believe in his innocence.
Tiedjen and Straus, both from Cleveland, exchanged vows at Tiedjen’s home, where he is on house arrest while awaiting a new trial, according to reports.
Kimberly Corral, Tiedjen’s attorney, officiated their wedding.
‘With all my heart I love her. There is nobody else I think about, and I want to be with her my whole life,’ Tiedjen told News 5 in Cleveland. ‘And I wrote her a letter back and I said, ‘I didn’t do it, take a look at this stuff.’
John Tiedjen was convicted for killing Crystal Strauss’ stepbrother, Brian McGary in 1989. However his conviction has been reversed after 32 years of incarnation, and Tiedjen and Strauss are now married
‘I love him, obviously,’ Straus said. ‘If I didn’t love him, I would not be sitting here with him.’
It’s no given Tiedjen will be found not guilty the second time around, amid concerns a corrupt cop overstated the convicted murderer’s involvement in the killing.
Tiedjen popped the question to Straus on the phone on New Year’s 2020, when they weren’t sure he’d ever get out of prison, according to the Washington Post.
‘We’ll get through this,’ Straus said, according to News 5 Cleveland. ‘It’s going to be a challenge, there’s no doubt about it.’
‘It’s definitely not a fairy tale,’ Kendall Corral said of the romance, according to the Post. ‘But it’s so genuine.’
Tiedjen was 25 years old when McGary was found dead in the apartment the men shared, and served 32 years for the murder.
However, in 1987, Tiedjen was on probation for a rape conviction, but always claimed his innocence for the murder charge by saying that McGary had committed suicide at the time.
He confessed to killing McGary in an act of self-defense after an intensive interrogation by detectives, but insists he can’t remember anything that happened on the night of the murders.
Tiedjen’s lawyer, Kimberly Corral, officiated his marriage to Strauss
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office thinks it still has a solid case, telling News 5 it has evidence Tiedjen asked a friend to dispose of the gun that killed McGary.
On the other hand, Tiedjen’s attorneys have argued evidence points to McGary having committed suicide.
McGary, who was Tiedjen’s roommate, was found dead in their apartment with a stab wound and a fatal gunshot wound to the head, according to police reports.
After intense interrogation, Tiedjen signed a statement that said he shot his roommate in self-defense, Boston 25 reported.
According to the Plain Dealer, a Cleveland newspaper, a detective repeatedly lied during the interrogation about the strength of the case against Tiedjen, who had said he didn’t remember what happened after he and McGary got home.
The detective also allegedly threatened Tiedjen and told him he’d get a better deal if he said he’d shot his stepbrother in self-defense.
Straus said she wrote Tiedjen a letter forgiving him a few years ago, beginning what Tiedjen called “something magical.”
Tiedjen’s biological brother also told detectives Tiedjen had confessed to killing McGary.
The newspaper reported that Tiedjen’s fingerprint was found on the stock of the rifle. None of his blood was found, however, and Tiedjen told News 5 this week that there was no physical evidence tying him to the shooting.
‘I had no powder burns, no gunshot residue, no blood, no cuts, no scrapes, nothing on my person or me or my clothing,’ he said.
McGary’s blood was found on the barrel of the rifle, indicating he’d been shot at fairly close range. Detectives found several .22-caliber bullets in McGary’s pants pocket.
Six weeks after his arrest, Tiedjen’s trial was underway. He recanted his confession, professing his innocence, but on June 2, 1989, a jury found him guilty of murder with a firearms specification.
Tiedjen allegedly encouraged Strauss to look into the evidence from the case. She became convinced he wasn’t her stepbrother’s killer.
Tiedjen was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. An additional three years were tacked on for the use of a firearm, court documents state.
After the trial, Tiedjen’s appellate lawyers learned that McGary was on prescription medication that was later determined to carry an increased risk of suicidal tendencies, the paper reported. McGary’s father had also killed himself several years earlier.
All Tiedjen’s appeals were denied until 2016, when his defense attorneys sought to file a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. They argued that more than 70 crime scene photos had been kept hidden by police, the prosecutor or both.
More than 30 pages of police reports were also withheld, his lawyers alleged.
Tiedjen is due in court for a pretrial hearing August 31.