Man's wife, in-laws, charged with hiring hit man to murder him

August 12, 1994|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Sun Staff Writer

In an Aug. 12 article, The Sun incorrectly identified the relationship of an intermediary in an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill a Ruxton man. A court document says the intermediary was a friend of the son of the woman who was charged with solicitation to commit murder, not a friend of the son of the intended victim.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Police say they thwarted a murder-for-hire plot against a Ruxton man yesterday by planting an undercover "hit man" after the broker who was paid to find a killer spent the loot in Ocean City and alerted authorities to the scheme.

The man's wife and two in-laws were charged with solicitation to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Clara Darlene Mathews, 51, of the first block of Ruxton Ridge Garth; her sister, Gabrella Stevenson, 52, of the 1800 block of W. Joppa Road, and a man identified by police as Ms. Stevenson's husband, Terry Lee Holmes, 43, also of the Joppa Road address, were denied bail yesterday afternoon. They were being held at Baltimore County detention facilities.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Police said the intended victim was Mrs. Mathews' husband, Henry Burke Mathews, 68, of the Ruxton Ridge Garth address, identified by police as a retired woodworker.

Ms. Mathews told the undercover police officer he would get a $500 bonus if he also killed Mr. Mathews' son, according to a charging document presented in District Court.

A police source said money was probably not the motive in the plot. "We are checking out a possible abusive situation, although we are not certain who abused whom," the source said.

Mr. Mathews did not return repeated phone calls to his home yesterday.

According to court documents, the plot began on Aug. 3, when Stephen Lewis, a friend of the intended victim's son, met Mrs. Mathews in the parking lot of a Liberty Road fast-food restaurant. She was driving a late-model silver Volvo and was accompanied by Ms. Stevenson.

At that meeting, the charging documents allege, Mrs. Mathews asked Mr. Lewis "if he could kill someone for her . . . a discussion of payment ranged from $1,000 to $5,000."

Two days later, according to the documents, Mr. Lewis met the women at the restaurant and said he would find someone to kill Mr. Mathews. At that point, Mrs. Mathews handed Mr. Lewis photographs of Mr. Mathews, their home and car. She also gave him twenty-five $100 bills, according to the charges, and told him there would be a bonus for killing the victim's son.

But Mr. Lewis, according to police, gathered up a couple of friends and headed for Ocean City, where he spent the money. When he returned Tuesday, police said, he called the county homicide unit and told detectives about the plot.

Detectives Carroll Bollinger and Dean Brubaker contacted the State Police Special Investigation Support Unit, and Tfc. George Forsythe was pulled out of a seminar on cellular phone fraud to ply his special trade -- as undercover hit man.

Trooper Forsythe said he has worked in more than 50 investigations of murder-for-hire plots over the past 10 years. Some, he said, resulted in convictions, others in peaceful resolutions -- with a threat of arrest in the background.

"There's no real story to lay out and no stereotypical image of hit man to portray," the trooper said yesterday. "I went in dressed with a nice sweat suit, driving a Mercedes. I told them I didn't want to know about them and they didn't need to know about me. I just wanted to do the job, get paid and be gone."

Several telephone calls -- recorded under a court order by Detective Bollinger -- were made by Mr. Lewis to Ms. Mathews, and a meeting was set up for Trooper Forsythe, according to court documents.

Late Wednesday night, Trooper Forsythe went to the Joppa Road address wearing his sweat suit and a tiny body microphone, the transmissions monitored by Detective Bollinger.

There, the trooper said, arrangements were made for him to go to Mr. Mathews' home and kill him. He would also be paid $2,500 for the job. The trooper got a house key from Mrs. Mathews, court documents said, and both her sister and brother-in-law were present during conversations about the murder.

Trooper Forsythe said that when he went to the Mathews' home to alert Mr. Mathews, "I realized I'd never been in such a nice place. There were oil paintings on the walls, very nice furniture. And Mr. Mathews didn't believe me that his wife was paying me to kill him. He said it was like a dream, he was stunned."

But he said Mr. Mathews soon grasped the situation and gave the trooper his wallet, which he was supposed to bring back as proof of the execution.

The trooper said he returned to the Joppa Road address and met with the suspects outside because "I didn't want anything happening inside -- we wanted to give the arrest team quick access to the suspects."

Trooper Forsythe said that when he was paid, he signaled waiting county police, who swooped in and arrested the suspects.

"When I came back and told [the suspects] the job was done, they were pleased, excited," Trooper Forsythe said. But when they were arrested, "they were very much surprised."

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