A 36-year-old Glen Burnie man with a history of mental illness pleaded guilty yesterday to hiring an undercover state trooper as part of a plot to kill his former girlfriend's boyfriend -- by mercury poisoning.
"He would use mercury under the guise [that the intended victim] would inhale the mercury, and it would eat away his brain," said Assistant Public Defender Gary W. Christopher, Joseph Ralph Gadow's lawyer.
Asked to explain how Gadow planned to kill his intended victim, Thomas Michaels, 48, of Crownsville, prosecutor Eugene M. Whissel II said, "He apparently had some sort of weird idea you could absorb mercury through the skin and the effects would be toxic."
Gadow faces at least five years in prison after pleading guilty yesterday in county Circuit Court to solicitation to commit first-degree murder. He was arrested Dec. 18, after a third meeting with a state trooper to plot Michaels' death.
Court records show Gadow had made a $25 down payment, along with an additional installment of $75, toward a $500 contract to have Michaels killed. Gadow had also promised to turn over the title to his motorcycle to the would-be killer on completion of the job.
Gadow's plan called for the killer to make the death appear accidental, either as part of a mugging or as the result of mercury poisoning. But Gadow made the mistake of seeking out a hit man through a police informant.
In December, three months after the end of the relationship with his girlfriend, Gadow and the undercover trooper, who was wired with a recording device, met three times at a hot dog stand near the Marley Station mall to discuss the terms of the planned contract killing.
"There was a certain amount of cheerleading -- 'I can do it for $500' -- that we will let the judge know about at sentencing," Christopher said.
Gadow, of the 1300 block of Meadowvale Drive, remains jailed pending his sentencing, scheduled for July 6. Christopher said soliciting for murder carries a maximum punishment of life in prison, but under the terms of yesterday's plea Gadow will receive five years or the prison term at the low end of the range recommended under sentencing guidelines.
Christopher said his calculations show the guidelines will recommend a sentence of four to nine years for Gadow. The lawyer said Gadow was committed to Crownsville State Hospital in 1974 and has received out-patient treatment for mental illness since then. He said he would seek a psychiatric evaluation for his client.