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10 Outrageous Murder-For-Hire Plots

by Robin Warder
fact checked by Jamie Frater

When one person wants to kill another human being and get away with it, one of the most efficient methods is murder-for-hire. By soliciting the services of another individual to perform the murder, the perpetrator can establish an alibi for themselves and make it more difficult to connect them with the crime. This can be a particularly popular method for those with no criminal experience.

Of course, the big drawback is that more people now have knowledge of the murder, so there’s always a greater risk of the scheme falling apart. The most unique murder-for-hire cases are built on circumstances so outrageous that they seem like an unbelievable work of fiction. Some of these cases ended in murder, while others were aborted before they even got off the ground, but it often seemed inevitable that the perpetrators would be caught.

10Brazilian Television Host Orchestrates Murders To Boost His Show’s Ratings


Photo credit: Manaus Em Noticia

For nearly 20 years, Wallace Souza was the host of Canal Livre, a very popular Brazilian reality television show that showcased police investigating crime scenes. In fact, the show proved so popular that Souza was able to branch out into a successful political career, and his show’s crime-fighting platform helped him get elected to the state assembly. However, in 2008, Souza found himself at the center of a shocking scandal. During this time period, Canal Livre seemed to feature an awful lot of murder cases, and the show’s camera crew would often show up to the crime scenes well before the police. Suspicion started to mount that Souza had been hiring hit men to kill people in an attempt to increase the ratings of his show.

After the murders, Souza would immediately tip off his reporters, so they could show up at the scene to capture fresh footage. Souza’s personal bodyguard told police that at least a dozen murders had been staged for Canal Livre. In fact, one of the victims was reputed to have been a hit man who was taken out after turning down Souza’s request to murder a judge. While Souza denied these claims, a raid of his home turned up weapons, cash, and a list containing the names of four recent murder victims. This lent credence to the theory that Souza was embroiled in a multimillion-dollar drug ring and that many of his victims were rivals in the drug business. In October 2009, after being expelled from the state assembly, Souza was charged with numerous crimes—including murder and drug trafficking—and went on the run. Souza later turned himself in to police but would not live to stand trial. He died of liver disease on July 27, 2010.

9Future Mayor Cons Mafia Boss Into Murdering An Innocent Couple

AP2014 Documentary The Pete Halat Interview 2 Parts Brad Kessie 5-21-13

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a criminal organization known as the “Dixie Mafia” ran roughshod over the state of Mississippi. The reputed leader of the Dixie Mafia was career criminal Kirksey McCord Nix Jr., who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1971 murder of a businessman but still controlled his criminal enterprise from behind bars. Nix ran a “lonely hearts” extortion scam, which involved placing personal ads in homosexual magazines. When men responded to these ads, Nix’s associates would con them out of money. In 1987, Nix would orchestrate a murder-for-hire plot involving an unlikely conspirator: the future mayor of Biloxi.

Nix took the money he’d made from the “lonely hearts” scam and entrusted it to his attorney, Pete Halat. However, Halat had taken approximately $500,000 from these funds and wound up spending it on himself. Out of desperation, he concocted a story about the money being stolen by his former law partner, Vincent Sherry, who had recently become a circuit judge. In response, Nix ordered a hit on Judge Sherry and his wife, Margaret, who was planning to run for mayor of Biloxi. They were both shot to death in their home on September 14, 1987.

Since Margaret Sherry was his political rival, there was some suspicion that Gerald Blessey, the then-mayor of Biloxi, had orchestrated the hit. Pete Halat took advantage of this and achieved victory in the next mayoral election. It would take a decade for the Sherrys to finally receive justice. In 1997, Nix, Halat, and Thomas Holcomb, the hit man who performed the murder, were indicted for their roles in the crime. Nix and Holcomb were given life sentences, while Halat received 18 years.

8The Murder-For-Hire Of ‘Lobster Boy’


Photo credit: The Human Marvels

Grady Stiles was born with a deformity called “ectrodactyly,” which caused his fingers to fuse together into claw-like digits. He also had stumps in place of his feet, rendering him unable to walk. The condition was hereditary, and ectrodactyly passed through the Stiles family for many generations. Like his ancestors, Grady Stiles would make his living performing in freak shows and carnivals. His deformity earned him the nickname “Lobster Boy.” In spite of his handicap, Stiles was a very dangerous individual—an abusive alcoholic who frequently beat his wife and children. In 1978, he was charged with shooting his daughter’s fiance and was convicted of third-degree murder. However, since no institutions were equipped to provide proper care for a man with ectrodactyly, Stiles got off with a sentence of 15 years’ probation.

Stiles continued to be violent and abusive toward his family for the next several years until his wife, Mary, decided that the only way to get rid of him was by orchestrating his murder. With the help of Glenn Newman, her son from a previous marriage, Mary enlisted the services of 17-year-old Chris Wyant, paying him $1,500 to murder Grady.

On November 29, 1992, Wyant entered Grady’s home and shot him in the head while he was watching television. It wasn’t long before the three perpetrators would be indicted for the murder. Since Glenn Newman was the mastermind behind the plot, he was given a life sentence, while Chris Wyant received 27 years. Mary expressed no regrets about having her husband killed, claiming it was the only way she could save her family. She wound up receiving a 12-year sentence.

7Founder Of Chippendales Arranges For The Murder Of His Rivals


Photo credit: Indian Emigres

The Chippendales are the world’s most famous all-male dance troupe and have spent the last several decades performing stripteases throughout the world. One of the group’s founders was Somen Banerjee, who’d left his native India in the 1970s and opened up a Los Angeles nightclub featuring female strippers. Banerjee soon realized that a club featuring male strippers could attract a potentially huge female clientele. He put this idea into motion and changed the name of his club to “Chippendales,” paving the way for the eventual formation of the enormously successful dance troupe. Unfortunately for Banerjee, he is no longer around to enjoy this success after becoming embroiled in some murder-for-hire schemes.

The original choreographer for the Chippendales was Nick De Noia, one of Banerjee’s partners. De Noia eventually had a falling out with Banerjee and left to form his own separate Chippendales touring company. In 1987, De Noia was murdered inside his office, shot in the face by a gunman disguised as a messenger. Things came crashing down for Banerjee in 1991, after an informant approached the FBI, claiming he had been hired to carry out a hit on three members of a British male dance troupe called “Adonis.” The potential victims were all former Chippendales dancers who had angered Banerjee by leaving the group and forming a rival troupe.

The subsequent investigation led to Banerjee’s arrest for orchestrating these murders. While in custody, evidence came to light that Banerjee had also ordered the death of Nick De Noia. In 1994, Banerjee decided to plead guilty to racketeering and arranging De Noia’s murder, which would have meant a 26-year prison sentence and the forfeiture of his interest in the Chippendales. On October 23, Banerjee committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell.

6Mary Ellen Samuels Hires Hit Man To Murder Husband, Hires Two More Hit Men To Murder The Hit Man

How to Kill A Husband: The Black Widow Murderess

In 1988, Robert Samuels, a camera assistant who worked on several Hollywood productions, lived in Northridge, California with his wife, Mary Ellen, and stepdaughter, Nicole, who was Mary Ellen’s child from a previous marriage. On December 8, Robert was murdered in his home by a shotgun blast to the head. Since Robert had recently asked his wife for a divorce, suspicion immediately fell upon Mary Ellen, who wound up inheriting $500,000 after her husband’s death. However, there was nothing to tie Mary Ellen to the murder, until the case took a bizarre turn seven months later. A 27-year-old man named James R. Bernstein was found beaten and strangled to death in an isolated canyon. It turned out that Bernstein was engaged to be married to Nicole Samuels.

An investigation soon uncovered that Mary Ellen had made arrangements with Bernstein to murder her husband, though whether Bernstein performed the deed himself or hired someone else to do it is unknown. Mary Ellen eventually became paranoid that Bernstein might talk and subsequently hired two more hit men to take him out. For reduced sentences, these two killers agreed to testify against Mary Ellen. Following her arrest, she would be nicknamed the “Green Widow,” since she blew through her entire $500,000 inheritance in just over one year. One of the most damning pieces of evidence against Mary Ellen was a photograph taken by her new lover shortly after Robert’s death. She was shown lying nude on a hotel bed in Cancun, covered by $20,000 in cash. In 1994, Mary Ellen Samuels was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. She remains on death row to this day.

5Restaurateur Hires Talkative Hit Man To Murder Rival


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On the evening of August 30, 1977, a restaurateur named Theodore “T.K.” Harty was found murdered inside his home in Athens, Georgia. He had been shot through the back of the head, execution-style. Harty ran a saloon in a popular Athens shopping district (a defunct railroad depot known as “The Station”) and had been engaged in a heated rivalry with another restaurateur named John Mooney. Mooney owned a pizza place in The Station and was constantly attempting to undercut Harty’s business by stealing his customers. When Harty managed to buy The Station’s lease, he demanded Mooney’s cooperation. Shortly thereafter, an attempt was made to set fire to Harty’s saloon, and Mooney was served with an eviction notice. Naturally, Mooney became the prime suspect in Harty’s murder, but he had an airtight alibi and was in Ohio that night.

In the end, the police didn’t have to do much investigating to connect Mooney to Harty’s murder. A restaurant owner soon came forward, claiming an electrician named Elmo Florence had flat out bragged to him that he was a professional hit man and was hired by John Mooney to kill Harty. Florence even provided specific details that only the killer could have known, so he and Mooney were both indicted and given life sentences for their roles in Harty’s murder. Florence later made the dubious claim that Mooney only hired him to force Harty to sign lease papers at gunpoint and that Harty was killed when the gun went off accidentally. Two years after his conviction, Mooney managed to escape from prison and was on the run until his case was profiled on Unsolved Mysteries in 1989. Viewer tips led police to Mooney, who was living under a new identity in Arizona. He was promptly sent back to prison.

4Wanda Holloway Plans Murder To Help Daughter Make Cheerleading Squad


Photo credit: Focus Features

Shanna Holloway, 14, was disappointed to learn she would not be making her high school cheerleading squad in Channelview, Texas. Instead, the spot went to another girl named Amber Heath. This situation shouldn’t have been anything more than standard high school drama, but Shanna’s mother, Wanda Holloway, was devastated by the news. Shanna never had much desire to become a cheerleader, but since Wanda was raised with a strict Baptist background and was never allowed to try out for the cheerleading squad when she was a teenager, she wanted to live vicariously through her daughter. In fact, Wanda Holloway was willing to commit murder in order to do so.

Wanda approached Terry Harper, the brother of her ex-husband, and asked him to help her procure the services of a hit man. Wanda wanted to have Amber Heath’s mother murdered, believing that Amber would be so devastated by her mother’s death that she would leave the cheerleading squad and Shanna could take her spot. Wanda’s former brother-in-law was disturbed by this proposal and informed the police, who asked Terry to wear a wire during his subsequent conversations with Wanda.

On January 30, 1991, the day after Wanda was recorded providing Terry with a down payment for a hit man, she was arrested and charged with solicitation to commit capital murder. Wanda was initially convicted of the crime and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but the verdict was overturned. At her second trial, Wanda decided to plead “no contest” for a reduced sentence of 10 years. She was released after serving only six months and spent the remainder of her sentence on probation.

3Clarence Ray Allen Orchestrates A Vicious Murder-For-Hire From Behind Bars


Photo credit: Murderpedia

In June 1974, Clarence Ray Allen and his accomplices staged a burglary at Fran’s Market in Fresno, California, stealing $500 in cash and $10,000 in money orders from the safe. This crime would set off a chain of events that led to the deaths of numerous people. Mary Kitts was the 17-year-old girlfriend of Allen’s son and took part in the scheme by cashing the stolen money orders. However, Kitts felt guilty about the crime and confessed her involvement to Byron Schletewitz, whose parents owned Fran’s Market. In response, Allen had one of his associates perform a hit on Kitts. Nevertheless, Allen was eventually linked to the burglary and Kitts’s murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1977. However, Clarence Ray Allen proved to be a more dangerous person inside the prison than out.

While incarcerated, the vengeful Allen decided to orchestrate a murder-for-hire plot to take out the seven witnesses who’d testified against him at the trial. He befriended an inmate named Billy Ray Hamilton and paid him $25,000 to commit the murders after being released. On September 5, 1980, Hamilton and his girlfriend went to Fran’s Market to kill Byron Schletewitz. They shot Schletewitz and two innocent employees to death and wounded two others. Days later, Hamilton was captured. A hit list containing the names of all the people Allen had hired him to kill was found in his pocket. Clarence Ray Allen would receive the death penalty for orchestrating these murders. Even after diabetes left Allen legally blind and confined to a wheelchair, there would be no clemency for him. On January 17, 2006, the 77-year-old Allen was given lethal injection, making him one of the oldest people to be executed in the history of the United States.

2Dora Cisneros Hires Hit Men To Murder Daughter’s Ex-Boyfriend


Dora Cisneros was a seemingly ordinary suburban housewife, who lived with her husband and five children in Brownsville, Texas. However, things took a shocking turn when Dora’s youngest daughter, Cristina, broke up with her 18-year-old boyfriend, Joey Fischer. Cristina seemed very heartbroken by the split, and Dora became obsessed with bringing an end to her daughter’s unhappiness. She even went so far as to offer Joey $500 to get back together with Cristina, but he refused. On the morning of March 3, 1993, Joey was shot twice in the driveway outside his home. A strange business card was found at the scene, which led police to an unlikely source for uncovering the truth behind the murder: a 73-year-old fortune-teller named Maria Martinez.

One of Martinez’s most frequent customers happened to be Dora Cisneros. After her daughter’s breakup, Dora had gone to the fortune-teller in order to cast a “fatal spell” on Cristina’s ex-boyfriend. Instead, Martinez turned to another customer named Daniel Garza, who helped acquire the services of two Mexican hit men. Dora wound up paying these hit men $3,000 to murder Joey Fischer. In 1994, Dora Cisneros and Daniel Garza both received life sentences for their roles in the crime. Maria Martinez wound up spending six years in prison, but the two alleged gunmen went back to Mexico and were never charged. In 1996, Dora’s conviction was overturned on appeal, because an error had been made by the prosecution with their jury instructions. Nevertheless, Dora Cisneros went back on trial two years later and received another life sentence. This time, the conviction held up, and she remains incarcerated.

1T. Cullen Davis Is Recorded Arranging Murder On Tape, Still Gets Acquitted At Trial


Photo credit: TCU Magazine

On August 2, 1976, a gunman broke into a home in Fort Worth, Texas and shot 12-year-old Andrea Wilborn to death. Andrea’s mother, Priscilla Davis, soon came home alongside her boyfriend, Stan Farr, and they were both shot as well. Wounded, Priscilla managed to flee the scene and survive, but a neighbor was shot and paralyzed by the gunman while attempting to help her. At the time, Priscilla was in divorce proceedings with her estranged husband, a billionaire oil baron named T. Cullen Davis. Priscilla identified Cullen as the gunman, and he would become the wealthiest man in American history to go on trial for murder. However, Cullen was acquitted, as the jury did not believe a billionaire would go to the trouble of performing a home invasion murder himself. This would be an eerie foreshadowing to T. Cullen Davis’s next brush with the law.

In 1978, Cullen was arrested for attempting to acquire the services of a hit man to murder both Priscilla and the judge in their divorce litigation. Cullen had been set up by an elaborate sting operation. The so-called “hit man” was an undercover FBI informant secretly recording their conversation. Since recorded evidence now existed of Cullen orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot, a conviction seemed inevitable. His first trial ended with a hung jury, but remarkably, Cullen would be acquitted the second time around. A forensic discourse analysis was performed on the recording of Cullen’s conversation with the informant. The defense managed to convince the jury that Cullen was merely hiring the man to spy on his ex-wife and the judge and was not soliciting murder. This created enough reasonable doubt for a “not guilty” verdict. T. Cullen Davis remains a free man to this day.

Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently worked on a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow. Feel free to contact him here.

fact checked by Jamie Frater