Popular Culture

15 of the Dumbest People to Hire a Hitman


We all meet people we can’t stand. The average person deals with it, or removes themselves from the situation. Some people can’t. It’s these people who look for more extreme methods to do their bidding. Murder is a sticky business, but there are plenty of people who want someone dead and a shocking number are willing to pay to make sure it happens. Some just aren’t all that smart.

The problem is, hitmen don’t have cards or a website offering their services. This makes finding a willing and capable candidate significantly more difficult, especially for people who are a little slow on the uptake.

Here are the stories behind some of the dumbest people to ever try and hire a hitman:

Pavel Valkovich

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Some people just don’t know when to quit. Or in the words of the judge that dealt with Pavel Valkovich: “You’re your own worst enemy.”

Valkovich, a 28-year-old from Sherman Oaks, LA was arrested in 2008 in connection with a bank fraud scheme in which he had taken part. The police learned of Valkovich’s involvement with the cooperation of an informant. After his arraignment, Valkovich tried to pay a hitman $10,000 to take out the informant by way of a drive-by shooting. Cops got wind of the plot and arrested Valkovich again on conspiracy to commit murder charges. The hitman ended up screwing up the job, and as a result, Valkovick landed in the slammer. Once in jail he attempted to hire another hitman to kill not only the informant, but also the original hitman for botching the job. He was caught for that as well, and is now serving 18 years in jail.

Susan Williams

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It’s a tale as old as time. You get married, have kids, and begin to fight. There’s lies, theft, or maybe even some abuse. Soon enough you’re hiring a hitman to kill your husband.

Such was the case with Susan Williams, 43, a mother of four and resident of Long Island (which definitely had something to do with it). In March 2010 she approached a friend looking for someone to murder her husband. The friend was (surprise!) a retired police officer, who went straight to the cops.

Undercover cops set Williams up, catching her on tape offering $20,000 for the death of her husband Peter, which seemed to her like a bargain. Peter Williams was a successful entrepreneur, so if he were killed $20,000 would just be a drop in the bucket. Susan Williams was busted by the cops, sent to jail, and is now awaiting trial.

Brooks L. Kellogg

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Often, the motive is business rather than a personal grudge. In early November 2010, 72-year-old Brooks L. Kellogg, president of a real estate agency, was indicted on crimes related to hiring a hitman to murder his business partner.

In October, Kellogg met an undercover FBI agent in Denver International Airport and paid him $2,000 in cash to murder Stephen Bunyard. Bunyard had sued Kellogg successfully, and been awarded a multi-million dollar judgment.

Kellogg’s mistress uncovered the plot and cooperated with authorities. Kellogg now faces 30 years in prison if convicted, and has also clearly harmed the cereal company of similar name.

Andrew Yager

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Youthful abandon can be a beautiful, romantic thing. It can also lead you to laughing at pictures of your dead ex-roommate (or can it?).

Andrew Yager, 22, a resident of Lincoln, Nebraska was arrested in September 2010 after unwittingly hiring a police sergeant to kill his former roommate. Police got a tip that Yager might want his former roommate killed, so they sent an undercover officer posing as a hitman. Yager asked for either her neck or back to be broken (nice guy), but said it would be fine if she died as well (never mind). The police sought the woman out and she agreed to pose for fake proof of death pictures.

When Yager was shown the pictures, he laughed… all the way to jail. He’s been charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Dalia Dippolito

In 2009, Dalia Dippolito, a young newlywed told a hitman that she was a mathematically impossible “five thousand percent sure” she wanted her husband dead. Unfortunately for her, the hitman was an undercover cop and Florida policemen were recording her.

A week later Florida police staged Michael Dippolito’s death in a somewhat sadistic attempt to teach Ms. Dippolito a lesson. They caught her on camera freaking out in a serious display of acting skill. Then they allowed her to see him alive, from a distance.

Ms. Dippolito called for Mr. Dippolito, hoping he would help her out of what now appeared to be a personal predicament. “I can’t,” Mr. Dippolito said. “I can’t fix this.” Ms. Dippolito claimed she’d done nothing wrong to both police and her husband. “What the fuck? You said you had to have me killed, I heard that,” Mr. Dippolito responded over the phone while Ms. Dippolito was in jail.

Ms. Dippolito had tricked her husband into transferring certain assets (such as his house) over to her. He had attempted to avoid paying restitution from a previous conviction related to fraud by giving large amounts of money and assets away, making him appear to be poor. Ms. Dippolito was more than happy to accept the “gifts” and tried to make sure she would get to keep them all.

The case has not yet reached trial.

Anthony Battisti

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These cases are not always black and white. Look at Anthony Battisti. After Timothy Gersbeck, 34, stabbed the 42-year-old Battisti’s ex-wife in the neck, Gersbeck (and later Prosecutor Michael Canty) claimed that her ex-husband Anthony Battisti had paid $5,000 to see her dead.

Battisti, a police officer and volunteer firefighter plead not guilty, claiming he is simply the victim of an opportunistic criminal in Gersbeck. According to Gersbeck and the prosecution, Battisti could not deal with his ex-wife dating a city firefighter.

Battisti and his lawyer vehemently deny the charges, and are confident they will win the case when it comes to trial. The moral of the story is that even cops aren’t exempt from the murder-for-hire scene.

The Jarmans

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Luther Benjamin Jarman, 41 and his wife Lizzie Jarman, 51 (cougar!) were charged in December 2010 for assault and conspiracy to commit murder in Richmond Virginia. The couple was living with Deborah A. Rocco as well as Ms. Jarman’s mother and stepfather. The Jarman’s behavior had grown increasingly erratic, and in November the couple was charged with assault for cursing and abusing Ms. Rocco.

Now here’s where they really lost it, conspiring to have two witnesses to their abuse of Ms. Rocco murdered. Police would not reveal how they discovered the plot other than to say no actual attempt to murder the witnesses was ever carried out.

John Fiala

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The motives people have for wanting someone dead have been pretty sinister so far, but this one takes the cake. In April 2010 John Fiala, a Texas priest was named in a lawsuit by a teenagers family who alleged Fiala had molested the youth a few years earlier. In the suit, the teen’s family claimed Fiala had forced their son to have sex at gunpoint.

It appeared that the Catholic Church may have been aware of Fiala’s predatory nature but chose to ignore it, which appears to be their standard protocol. After learning of the suit, Fiala approached a neighbor and allegedly offered him $5,000 to kill the teen. The neighbor reported this to the police, and Fiala was busted soon after.

Fiala is currently charged with solicitation to commit capital murder as well as two cases of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Lonnie N. Deppen

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Sometimes you get caught trying to have someone murdered and you handle it in a responsible way. Meet Lonnie N. Deppen, 42. In November 2010, Deppen committed the rookie (and all too frequent) error of going up to a random woman (one Tracy Ella) and asking her if she would help him find a hitman to murder his former fiance. Deppen also asked if Ella could provide him with an alibi.

Ella was a sane, sensible woman so she called the police, and a sting operation was set up. Ella introduced Deppen to a “hitman” (actually an undercover officer), and the three went to a car to discuss business. Ella and the officer recorded Deppen offering $12,000 for the death of his ex fiance, and provided a down payment of $200. He was arrested immediately upon exiting the car.

Deppen realized that when you’re caught, you’re caught, and agreed to waive his rights to a preliminary hearing. If you want your former fiance murdered, don’t trust strangers! (duh)

Billie Jo Mitchell and Ariel Garcia

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Walking up to someone random and asking that they commit a murder for you is a risky proposition at best. The person you’re talking to could be a cop, a former cop, or more sane and logical than yourself. At least if you speak to someone in real life, the chances that they’ll be recording you at first are pretty slim. It’s that second meeting you need to be wary of.

What’s the worst way to communicate about a murder? One that automatically records everything you say? How about text messages!

In September 2010, 24-year-old Billie Jo Mitchell (perhaps prison has aged her, she looks 40) and 21-year-old Ariel Garcia were arrested in Lewisville, Texas and charged with solicitation of capital murder. Police were tipped off, and then found the proof within Mitchell and Garcia’s cell phones. Homicidal idiots.

Juan-Carlos Cruz

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Not all of our murder solicitors are creepy businessmen or trailer trash. Welcome Juan-Carlos Cruz, 48, certified Food Network celebrity. Cruz, formerly best known for his work on shows such as “Calorie Commando” or “Weighing In” is now best known for trying to have his wife murdered.

In Spring 2010, Cruz came to the attention of Santa Monica Police when a homeless man told cops that Cruz had hired him to kill a woman. That woman turned out to be his wife and high school sweetheart Jennifer Campbell.

If you’ve been with someone that long, perhaps your only way out is to have her murdered. After all, If you’re desperate to escape a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband, breaking up just sounds terrible. What about all the clothes they have over at your place?

Cruz had other plans. Allegedly he approached three homeless men, and told them they needed to murder an unnamed woman who had recently come into a large inheritance (there was no inheritance). Cruz then gave the homeless men a box cutter, a disposable cell phone, gloves, a watch, a photo of his wife and 10 hundred-dollar bills cut in half, promising the rest after the deed was done.

Homeless men are not reliable hitmen, as Cruz soon discovered. One of the three homeless men was arrested for loitering (surprise!) and quickly agreed to set Cruz up. Cruz was arrested on charges of soliciting murder, and awaits trial. He probably hasn’t been able to cook anything in quite some time.

Edward Graziano

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Edward Graziano is about as awful a guy as they come. His son John is known for the terrible injuries he sustained when Nick “Hogan” Bollea crashed a car they were both driving in, in 2007 (after the crash, Edward Graziano was arrested at the hospital for fighting with family members).

As for Graziano himself, in 2008 Police in Florida were tipped off that Graziano was attempting to hire a hitman. Police began setting up meetings between Graziano and an undercover police officer who posed as a middleman. Graziano asked the undercover officer to have his wife Debra Graziano killed, preferably in a tragic auto accident.

After two months of investigation, Edward Graziano was arrested at his home. He had tried to pay the undercover officer with $1,100 in cash, a check for $1,000 (good idea to leave a paper trail) as well as a gift card from a pizzeria for $13.06. What a genius.

Morena Costello

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When Morena Costello’s father died from heart failure, she held the doctors and nurses who had been caring for him personally responsible. Costello didn’t want their money, she wanted them dead.

In November 2010, the 46-year-old former model Costello, like many who have failed before her, approached an undercover FBI agent and asked for the murder of an undisclosed number of doctors and nurses who had cared for her father. The FBI had learned of Costello’s willingness to hire a hitman through a friend Costello had confided in. Costello’s father, former musician Bella Costello, spent the last month of his life in Staten Island University Hospital.

Costello gave the FBI agent a $400 down payment, and said she wanted the doctors and nurses who had cared for her father to
“suffer like her father suffered.” Just to confirm the undercover officer asked Costello if she actually wanted the doctors dead. Costello borrowed Nike’s slogan, responding with a note that read, “Just do it.”

Costello’s lawyer claimed she suffered a mental breakdown, which led to her search for a hitman. Costello currently awaits trial on charges of soliciting murder.

Shawano, Wisconsin and SIST

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This is one for the ages. The town of Shawano, Wisconsin is under siege by a group that claims to be an educational non-profit, but some town members allege is a cult intent on murdering many of the town’s politicians, including the mayor!

Canadian businessman Bob Cameron had previous dealings with the group, known only as SIST. Cameron claims he had lost money in a business venture he’d embarked on with SIST, and was attempting to get it back through staying in touch with the group. Eventually Cameron claims, SIST members transferred him $175,000 in October 2008 and soon after faxed him a list of 60 townspeople the group wanted dead.

On the list were the mayor, the city administrator, the city treasurer, attorney, police chiefs, judges and fire commissioners to name a few. At this point Cameron decided it was time to turn everything he had over to the FBI. SIST claims (through a lawyer) that all of Cameron’s accusations are false, and the town is persecuting SIST unfairly.

So far, no arrests have been made but many living in Shawano feel as if they are trapped in their own town with a sociopathic cult intent on their destruction. Law enforcement sources have stated that the FBI is investigating a “person of interest” within SIST, but so far no one has been named.

Mohammad Reza Sadeghnia

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Things just got political. Mohammad Reza Sadeghnia, 43, a purported Iranian government agent who pleaded guilty to hiring a hitman is now a fugitive from justice.

Sadeghnia, who lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for many years had been surveilling two anti-Iranian government broadcasters, one in London and one in L.A. In July 2009 Sadeghnia went to California and attempted to hire a hitman to murder Jamshid Sharmahd, a L.A. based radio personality that vocally opposes the Iranian government. He offered $32,000, which wasn’t enough to keep the man from going to the police.

Sadeghnia pleaded guilty after his arrest, and served a year before being let out on probation in July of 2010 (there must be zero room in the California prison system). Sadeghnia was allowed to return to Iran to visit his ailing father, but was ordered to return by late October (sounds smart). He never did, and is currently at large and wanted by police.


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