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Friday, February 17, 2023

The Lee D. Smith Murder-For-Hire Case

     Lee D. Smith lived with his wife Lana and their daughter in Basehor, Kansas, a suburban community of 5,000 across the line from Kansas City, Missouri. The 37-year-old and his wife had been arguing about money which led to his decision to hire someone to kill her.

     On May 8, 2012, Mr. Smith offered the job to a man who seemed interested. The husband drove the potential hit-man to his wife's place of work and showed him where she parked her car. Smith also outlined her daily routine and described what she looked like to the man he hoped would kill her. He even offered this man advice on how to accomplish the job. He suggested catching his murder target's attention by calling out her name then shooting her when she turned in response. The man solicited for the murder accepted the assignment and was given $400 in upfront money. The murder-for-hire mastermind promised the rest--$1,800--when his wife was dead.

     The next day, instead of carrying out the murder of Lana Smith, the would-be hit-man went to the police. Working as an undercover operative he called Mr. Smith and reported that he was holding his wife and his daughter hostage. Did Mr. Smith want them both murdered? Smith instructed the informant to release his daughter but kill his wife.

     The undercover operative, an hour later, called Smith back. He informed the murder-for-hire mastermind that his wife was dead. They agreed to meet later that afternoon at a grocery store where Smith would pay the hit-man the balance due on the murder contract. Before he had a chance to meet the hit-man, Smith received a call from a police officer who asked him to come to the station to pick up his daughter. When Smith showed up for the girl officers took him into custody.

     The local police turned the Lee Smith case over to the FBI, and on May 28, 2012, an Assistant United States Attorney in Kansas City charged Smith with soliciting his wife's murder. In October of that year Smith pleaded guilty to the federal charge.

     A federal judge in Kansas City, on February 28, 2013, sentenced the murder-for-hire mastermind to eight years in prison. Eight years. Had Smith picked a hit-man who had been willing to complete the job his wife would be dead. How was this any different than Smith putting a gun to his wife's head, a firearm he mistakingly believed was loaded, and pulling the trigger? Eight years for this cold-blooded murder attempt was extremely lenient--and wrong.

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