US: An Ohio man hatched a plot to kill a woman he was in a home-ownership dispute with, authorities say, by approaching an emergency room patient at the renowned hospital where he worked as a nurse with the question, "Ever killed anyone?"
No, the Cleveland Clinic patient replied, but I once shot a man.
That was good enough, authorities say, for nurse Andrew Martin, 23, who allegedly tried to resolve the dispute by offering the patient $10,000 to kill the woman, who was never hurt.
Martin, of the town of Bristolville about 50 miles east of Cleveland, has pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 7 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. His attorney, Edward LaRue, said "there's much more to come" in the case.
According to a federal affidavit that reads like a combination of real-estate law and backroom conspiracy, Martin somehow hooked up with a man named David Simons, who had done occasional carpentry work for an elderly man, George Warehime. How Martin and Simons met wasn't detailed.
Warehime died Dec. 4, 2010, at age 83 after years of decline. Doctors said he showed evidence of Alzheimer's disease. The administrator of his estate, sister Joy Comey, put his house up for sale and lined up a buyer.
She was stunned to visit the home Nov. 21, 2011, and find Martin and another man, David Simons. They claimed her brother had deeded the house to them nine months earlier without cost.
Getting the house could enrich the men. It is valued at $193,000 for tax purposes.
Comey, whose exact age is unclear, said her brother never mentioned giving up his home, on a tree-lined boulevard in a desirable neighborhood in Lakewood, minutes from Cleveland. Comey lived near him in the area blocks from Lake Erie and visited him frequently to care for him.
Comey called police, and a yearlong ownership fight began in probate court. A judge eventually sided with Comey and voided a backdated deed notarized under questionable circumstances.
Comey argued that the two men took advantage of her brother, who was found in 2009 to have memory loss and dementia. He couldn't hear well.
Simons claimed the deed to the house showed up in his mail box without explanation. His attorney quit in the middle of the probate case, fearful that his client was involved in fraud, court records said.
Martin is accused of using a cellphone to discuss the plot, and because the cellular network crosses states lines, he is being charged in federal court, instead of state court, with the murder-for-hire scheme.
Irritated that "this 70-year-old lady, she has been trying to mess up my life," Martin approached an ER patient who "looked like a big guy," according to the federal affidavit.
"Ever hurt anyone?" Martin allegedly asked the man, whose name wasn't disclosed.
"Yes, no, maybe," the ER patient responded cautiously.
Martin pressed ahead, according to the affidavit, asking, "Ever killed anyone?"
"I shot someone in the leg once," the patient responded.
Satisfied the man lived in a tough Cleveland neighborhood, Martin allegedly offered him $10,000 to kill Comey. Martin described her and her car and provided her address, prosecutors say.
When the patient tipped a police officer, Comey was alerted and went into hiding.
The threat caused her anguish, and "she was deeply disturbed, as one would expect," said her probate attorney, Franklin Hickman.
Calls to Comey's home went unanswered, and Hickman said he had advised her not to talk to reporters.
The Cleveland Clinic, a research hospital known for its nationally ranked heart care, suspended Martin without pay when he was arrested in November.
Martin was locked up without bail to await trial. Calls to a phone listed in his family name in Bristolville went unanswered.
LaRue, his attorney, said a picture of a hard-working young man would emerge at Martin's trial.
"He's been remarkably productive," he said. "He's been working ever since the age of 15. He's 23 now and has attained a certain degree of business acumen in the world, as well as a nursing license."
Simons could not be reached for comment. A bankruptcy court filing from last year showed he had debts of nearly $150,000; he wasn't charged in the alleged murder plot.
Last May, in the middle of the probate fight, Simons took out a $600,000 insurance policy on the house, according to the federal affidavit. Ten days later, an early morning fire later declared arson damaged the house, and the insurer rescinded the policy.
Local prosecutors declined to comment on any investigation involving suspected house fraud or arson.
There is little evidence of the fire at the spacious house, which remains boarded up and padlocked by the city. (AP)
Shipment of 18 human heads found at airport
CHICAGO: Investigators probing a shipment of 18 human heads intercepted at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport have determined they came from bodies donated for scientific research and were being transported for disposal.
US: Customs agents discovered the grisly package, which was shipped to Chicago from Italy shortly before Christmas, on Monday. Because the shipment's paperwork was not in order, agents confiscated the heads and sent them to the Cook County Medical Examiner for safekeeping, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said.
The heads, which had been used by a medical research facility in Rome, were properly embalmed, wrapped and labeled when they arrived at the airport, said Mary Paleologos, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner.
Foul play has been ruled out, she said.
On Tuesday, the cremation company that was supposed to take delivery of the heads and dispose of them presented the missing paperwork to the medical examiner, Paleologos said.
The medical examiner said the remains would not be released to the company until federal authorities verified the paperwork.
In the meantime, the medical examiner is photographing and x-raying the embalmed heads for record-keeping purposes, Paleologos said. (REUTERS)
Man brings bomb into police station
CYPRUS: A man triggered a major security scare in Cyprus on Wednesday when he walked into a police station carrying a bomb he found on his driveway, saying he wanted officers to examine it.
Police said the 33-year old man discovered a suspicious device on the back window of his car and after drawing a blank on what it was doing there, decided to take it to a police station in the capital Nicosia for further scrutiny by experts.
It didn't take long for police to discover it was a makeshift bomb which had failed to go off, triggering the evacuation of the complex.
"He obviously didn't know what it was," a police source told Reuters.
Police said the object was a "makeshift high intensity explosive"
attached to a detonator and a fuse. It was defused on site by explosives experts. (REUTERS)
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