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Are Revenge Plots Increasing?

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
Bud is the most veteran reporter at CBS 11 News with 42 years in m...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW) – With one of the biggest stories of the week being the alleged murder-for-hire plot targeting some of Arlington’s top city leaders, CBS 11 News wondered how common—or uncommon—murder for hire schemes may be.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say they’re common, but you do see them on a regular basis,” says veteran FBI official Danny Defenbaugh, who saw a lot of “revenge” plots tied to the drug trade when he was in Miami.  But in 15-years here they seem mostly to be lovers or business-related.  “It could be financially motivated or–as we discussed—it could be domestic, a lover or paramour or husband or wife.”

The now-retired G-Man says occasionally it was worthwhile to continue to “stage” an arranged hit if it were discovered, in order to keep the person who ordered it from going somewhere else and trying again.  “You don’t want somebody who wants someone else killed to go out and get someone else once you’ve heard about it,” he says, adding, “You want to make sure that they stick with you so you can insure the safety of those victims or potential victims.”

He remembers in one case where they took some skin and hair from a victim to “prove” he had been scalped to the party who ordered the hit.  Defenbaugh says he sees a trend in North Texas involving children.  “It appears to be quite a larger number of those where the children are involved in either wanting to either kill of have killed a parent or guardian.”

There have been some highly-publicized accused contract killings in North Texas.   Locally there was the Christmas 2008 murder in  Frisco, where the victim’s estranged wife is accused of having him killed.   Vera Elizabeth Guthrie-Nail is awaiting trial in that case.   In Richardson in the 1980s, socialite Joy Davis Aylor was accused of hiring a gunman to kill her husband’s girlfriend.  Aylor fled the country but was captured and is now serving a life sentence.   In 1991 Wanda Holloway famously tried to hire a hit man to kill the mother of her daughter’s cheerleader rival.  That unraveled, and Holloway served ten years in prison for solicitation of murder.

A former policeman says frequently would-be hitmen are criminals who would rather turn the tables and make a deal with cops.  “And I think that’s probably why 9 times out of 10 these plots get foiled is because the potential “hit man,” so to speak, finds out they can use it to their advantage,” says Peter Schulte, now a Dallas criminal defense attorney.   Schulte thinks we’ll see fewer of these kinds of crimes in the future because of the emerging role of technology.  “I think with social media nobody can be anonymous anymore like they used to be.”    He continues, “With banks, nobody deals with cash anymore, that if somebody takes out $50,000 in cash anymore that’s going to set off a red flag.  you’ve got tracking ability on peoples’ vehicles.”

His conclusion: “There’s no perfect crime out there for a murder-for-hire scheme, I just don’t think it can be done.”

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