Sibling rivalry is not uncommon in most families, but rarely does jealousy among sisters lead to murder. Sandra Merrifield desperately wanted a child to care for, and when her younger sister Jossie became a mom first, Sandra developed a deep seeded jealousy. When her younger sister became a second time mother, the rage inside Sandra boiled over. Then the unthinkable happened, ripping a family apart. This is the story of The Merrifield Sisters.
The Merrifield Family
The Merrifield family lived in Collinsville, Illinois through out the 1980’s and 1990’s. Sandra often cared for the younger siblings in this large family, which included her younger sister Jossie Merrifield. Jossie was born in 1981, four years younger than Sandra. The two grew up in a household described as having “a lot of secrets” (Twisted Sisters, 2018). It was a blended family with lots of siblings and a strong father figure who ruled with an iron fist, Joe Merrifield. The articles and documentaries on this case strongly suggest an atmosphere of abuse in the Merrifield home.
As the children grew into young adults and teenagers, Sandra remained a guiding figure for her younger siblings. She was responsible, reserved, and a natural caregiver. By the time she was twenty, she was taking steps to become a certified nursing assistant. Her younger sister, Jossie, was much more outgoing and social at age sixteen. Sandra, however, was ready to settle down with her boyfriend Everette and wanted more than anything to become a mother.
Sandra was shocked when her sister Jossie shared that she was pregnant at only age sixteen. Sandra was jealous of Jossie because she wanted so badly to have a child of her own. She didn’t feel like the teenager was well equipped to care for a baby and resented that Jossie had what she wanted. To make matters worse, no one knew who the father of Jossie’s baby was and he was not involved in the pregnancy. In 1997, Jossie gave birth to a baby boy she named Jordan.
Jossie, still living in the Merrifield family home, was now in her prime teenage years but was saddled with the responsibility of caring for an infant. Raising a baby alone at such a young age took a toll on Josie, who yearned for a man in her life. Sandra, however, was living with her boyfriend and working as a nursing assistant. At this particular point in time, Jossie had what Sandra wanted and Sandra had what Jossie wanted.
Before long, Jossie met a man named Chester at the local Taco Bell. Jossie originally got a job at Taco Bell but was let go for spending too much time trying to get Chester’s attention instead of focusing on her duties (Twisted Sisters, 2018). Chester and Jossie started dating, however, and seemed to be in love. Jossie had found what she was looking for. Sandra did not seem happy about her sister’s new relationship according to Chester (Twisted Sisters, 2018).
Despite being in a relationship with Chester, family members started to notice Jossie spending a lot of time at the home of her sister Sandra and Sandra’s boyfriend Everette. There was some “flirting” noted between Jossie and Everette. Sandra, as well as other family members, became suspicious that Everette and Jossie were having an affair behind Sandra’s back. However, nothing in my research confirmed these rumors.
Over the next year, Sandra kept trying to get pregnant without success. She reportedly had multiple miscarriages during this time. She lived in constant fear that not being able to give Everette a child would drive him to the arms of another woman, maybe even her own sister. She was more than jealous of Jossie and her young son. Her jealously became unbearable when Jossie announced at age seventeen that she was pregnant once again.
Jossie told her boyfriend Chester about the pregnancy and according to Chester’s interview on an episode of Twisted Sisters, the couple were excited to have a baby (Twisted Sisters, 2018). Sandra, however, was not excited for the couple. She begged her sister to allow her and Everette to raise the baby as their own. Being young and already having one child, Jossie did consider this idea and at one point even told Sandra she would give her baby to her. However, Jossie changed her mind at the urging of her boyfriend Chester. This decision infuriated Sandra.
Although tensions were high in the family as a result of Jossie’s decision to keep her baby, the sisters remained close. Shortly after Jossie changed her mind about the adoption, Sandra announced that she was finally pregnant. It seemed there was nothing left for Sandra to be jealous about. The two sisters spend the spring and early summer of 1999 sharing in the pregnancy experience as their bellies grew and their babies kicked.
On August 11th, 1999, Jossie went to Anderson Hospital in Maryville where she delivered a healthy happy baby boy. She was now the proud mother of two sons, Jordan and Jasper. She was discharged home the next day, August 12th. Jossie was home from the hospital about thirty minutes when her sister Sandra helped her pack up both boys in the car and the sisters went for a ride (Dispatch-Argus, 1999).
Later that evening, Everette returned home to he and Sandra’s home to find Jordan, Jossie’s two-year-old, at their home. When he saw Sandra, she was carrying a newborn infant. Sandra told him that she had felt some pains earlier in the day and went to the doctor’s office. She claimed she had actually given birth at the doctor’s office to a son (Twisted Sisters, 2018). Everette asked why the toddler was at their home and where Jossie was. Sandra explained that Jossie dropped Jordan off and then went out with Chester. Everette believed his girlfriend and made a trip to the store to buy the essential items needed for the newborn.
Meanwhile, Chester arrived at the Merrifield home looking for his girlfriend Jossie and newborn son. The family members informed him that Jossie was not home and had supposedly been out with him. Chester told them he had not seen Jossie that day. Another family member informed Everette that Jossie was missing when he dropped her young son off at home. Everette had a sinking feeling in his gut and knew something wasn’t right.
Everette returned to his home and confronted Sandra about Jossie’s whereabouts. He described in a police interview that was featured in the Twisted Sisters episode feeling overwhelming emotions as Sandra coldly said “Jossie isn’t coming back” (Twisted Sisters, 2018). He urged his girlfriend to tell him about the whereabouts of Jossie and eventually escorted her to the Collinsville Police Department along with the baby.
Once at the police station, Sandra told authorities that she didn’t know if Jossie was alive or dead, but that she could lead them to her (Twisted Sisters, 2018). Sandra led them to a ravine just south of Collinsville where they located the deceased body of Jossie Merrifield laying face down in shallow water. Jossie was just eighteen years old and a Senior at Collinsville High School.
Sandra told authorities that she and Jossie were having an argument about the father of her newborn son, who was in the backseat of the car with his two-year-old brother, when Sandra drove out to the area where Jossie’s body was found. She went on to say the two women exited the vehicle in the midst of the argument, but then claimed to have blacked out. She stated that when she came to, she had a bloody rock in her hand and Josie was laying in the ravine. She left and went back to her home where Everette found her later that day.
Jossie Merrifield’s autopsy showed that the woman had blunt force trauma wound to the head that would have likely knocked her unconscious. Her cause of death, however, was drowning (Cortes, 2019). She was alive when she went into that ravine and possibly still alive when her sister left her there.
The confession from Sandra left more questions to be answered. For one, she had supposedly been pregnant for the last eight months but suddenly appears to be not pregnant. Did she give birth? Where is that baby? Authorities feared she may have harmed her own child (Twisted Sisters, 2018). They asked Sandra these questions to which she explained that earlier that day she had given birth in the woods to a stillborn child that she threw in Horseshoe Lake (Twisted Sisters, 2018).
Authorities began a search of the lake to find the remains of the infant. After the search failed to produce any sign of the baby’s remains, they questioned Sandra again. She admitted that she had never been pregnant. She had made her entire pregnancy up, leading authorities to believe this was a premeditated murder.
A clinical psychologist was consulted to determine if Sandra suffered from mental illness. Dr. Diane Sandford was consulted for the defense and stated that she felt that Sandra had post-partum psychosis and suffered from dissociative states from being abused as a child (Twisted Sisters, 2018). She argued that the murder was not pre-meditated, and Sandra was not fully responsible for the death.
Sandra was charged with first degree murder but was given a plea deal which allowed her to plead guilty to second degree murder instead. She was given eighteen years in prison (Cortes, 2018). Sandra served just seven years in prison before she was released. Jordan and Jasper were taken into custody by the Department of Children and family services and were adopted outside of the family (Mohs, 2018). DNA tests later revealed Chester as Jasper’s biological father, but Jordan’s father is still unknown (Twisted Sisters, 2018). Jossie and Sandra’s father Joe was killed in 2014 after he was struck by a car (Associated Press, 2014).
In 2018, this case was featured on the Investigation Discovery channel show Twisted Sisters. At that time, her youngest son Jasper, just one day old when his mother was murdered, sat down with a reporter from KMOV4 in St. Louis to explain how his mother’s murder effected his life. He told the reporter that despite being adopted “I was definitely abused, verbally, physically, emotionally. I could have had a good life and childhood, but someone snatched it from me” (Mohs, 2018).
A young mother was taken violently from her sons at the hands of her own sister. The Merrifield house in Collinsville was not always a happy home to be raised in. Many people believe Jossie and Sandra were both victims of abuse throughout their childhood. Did this abuse and repeated miscarriages lead Sandra to just snap? Many believe that this was a pre-meditated murder and Jossie and her sons were denied the justice they deserve. Her son, who only knew her for one day, keeps her memory alive on his Facebook page. Despite Sandra’s evil actions, she couldn’t destroy the love between Jossie and Jasper.
Jossie Merrifield (Left) and Sandra Merrifield (Right) (Cortes, 2018)
Mohs, M. (2018) 1999 Collinsville murder is focal point of new crime show exec. producer Khloe Kardashian; KMOV4; Retrieved at: 1999 Collinsville murder is focal point of new crime show by exec. producer Khloe Kardashian | News Headlines | kmov.com
FindaGrave (Accessed 2021) Jossie Lynn Merrifield; Retrieved at: Jossie Lynn Merrifield (1981-1999) - Find A Grave Memorial
Dispatch-Argus (1999) Woman charged with killing sister, keeping baby; Retrieved at: Woman charged with killing sister, keeping baby | Latest News | qconline.com
Cortes, L. (2019) Kardashian-produced show highlights Collinsville woman who killed sister in 1999; Retrieved at: 1999 Collinsville murder featured on Investigation Discovery | Belleville News-Democrat (bnd.com)
Associated Press (2014) Pedestrian hit, killed by car in Collinsville; The Washington Times; Retrieved at: Pedestrian hit, killed by car in Collinsville - Washington Times
Twisted Sisters (2018) Bye Bye Baby; Investigation Discovery; Season 1, Episode 2; Retrieved from Hulu.