By Shereen Siewert
A Wisconsin woman will spend six years in federal prison for trying to hire a hitman over the dark web to kill her ex-husband, who she accused of abusing her children mentally and physically for years.
Federal prosecutors announced late Thursday that 38-year-old Kelly Harper of Columbus received the sentence after she pleaded guilty to using the Internet to hire a hitman. Her attorney, federal public defender Joseph Bugni, didn’t immediately respond to a message Friday.
During the sentencing hearing, Harper told U.S. District Judge William Conley she was going through a custody battle with the intended victim in the case. Federal case documents identify the man only as “known victim,” but the Wisconsin State Journal reports the intended target was Harper’s former husband.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Harper’s divorce file, which the newspaper obtained before it was sealed, detailed multiple allegations of abuse made by Harper. Prosecutors declined to file charges, and a judge in the divorce case said he would end Harper’s custodial rights if she continued to make false child abuse accusations, the WSJ reported.
According to the criminal complaint, Harper used murder-for-hire sites on the dark web last fall to try to set up the murder. She supplied the administrator of one site with a photo of the intended victim and his car during a chat in December. The administrator responded by demanding proof of payment in bitcoin. Harper responded by sharing a screenshot of a bitcoin wallet worth about $5,633.
Police learned of the alleged plot after they received a call of a suspicious person at the man’s home on Jan. 12. An officer arrived and discovered the man in the middle of an interview with three journalists researching a murder-for-hire site on the dark web. They said they had uncovered a plot to kill him.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.