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A 32-year-old Las Cruces man repeatedly contacted what he thought was a murder-for-hire website in April allegedly to order a hit on his mother-in-law.
“Kill that b–ch,” he allegedly declared at one point, threatening he would “do it himself” if he couldn’t get fast action.
The rent-a-hitman website was a spoof, but federal authorities took the alleged threat seriously.
Posing as a hit man, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent played along long enough to build a case against Leif Everett Hayman, who is now facing a federal charge of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder for hire.
Over the objection of federal prosecutors, Hayman was ordered released on his personal recognizance under certain conditions pending trial by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory Wormuth in Las Cruces. But that June 3 ruling is now being appealed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Cruces.
A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Wednesday.
Hayman, who court records show has a legal guardian and lives in a residential facility through the state’s Developmental Disabilities Waiver program, is being kept in federal custody in the meantime.
Hayman’s federal public defender didn’t return a Journal request for comment this week.
The ATF was tipped off by Bob Inness, the owner and operator of the website rentahitman.com, who lives in Sacramento, California. Inness told ATF that Hayman first contacted his website on April 10 about attempting to get someone to “hurt” an individual – the mother of his wife.
“I want her gone now … too much that I don’t like about her … she’s controlling my wife,” Hayman allegedly wrote to the website. Hayman provided an address, a phone number, an email address of the victim, and included her photo.
The website’s home page states, “RENT-A-HITMAN: Your Point & Click Solution!”
It lists a man named “Guido Fanelli” as its operator, sells hit man T-shirts, and has an online order form seeking information about the target of each hit and the requester. There’s a space for a Code or Safe Word or Phrase a requester can use in future communications. “Example: Leave the gun. Take the cannoli,” the webpage states.
“Our clients confidentiality is important to us, so rest assured that your information will remain private as required under HIPPA, the Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964,” the webpage adds.
Hayman at one point questioned whether the website was legitimate, a federal criminal complaint states.
“You people are fake if u were real someone who have contact me already,” he is alleged to have stated in the text.
On May 3, according to a criminal complaint, an ATF agent in Las Cruces got the tip that Hayman “was attempting to hire someone to eliminate another individual.”
The website owner told the ATF that he initially “attempted to relay the information (about Hayman) to other law enforcement agencies in the Las Cruces, NM, area but was unsuccessful,” the complaint states.
The agent then made contact with Hayman, who allegedly told him he needed the hit done “as soon as possible and no evidence. It’s my wife’s mom we’re talking about, so I don’t want any evidence to come back to me or you,” the complaint states.
Agents verified some of Hayman’s information through Facebook and a website that showed his engagement to the daughter of the woman he allegedly wanted killed.
At one point, Hayman said he needed to ask his wife for the money to pay for the hit but he wouldn’t tell her why, the complaint states.
On May 9, he allegedly typed a text message to the undercover agent that stated “change of plans she is only giving me 53 dollars so let’s use a baseball bat.”
On May 11, ATF agents conducted an operation in which the undercover agent was going to pick up “Hayman to ‘murder’ the victim.” But that went awry when the undercover agent saw Hayman approach his vehicle with another man who was trying to keep Hayman from coming closer. Two men began to “shove each other around” and the agent drove away.
Two ATF agents then interviewed Hayman’s state-appointed legal guardian in Las Cruces who gave them access to Hayman’s iPad.
The judge at the time decided Hayman could be released to the custody of Links of Life, which provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are on the state’s Developmental Disabilities Waiver program. The judge ordered Hayman be placed with a caregiver at all times, and “all alarms at the Defendant’s residence must be active at all times.”
After Hayman’s arrest June 1, Wormuth held a hearing in Las Cruces. Court records show the defense sought immediate release and wanted to “address defendant’s medical concerns.”
The judge also ordered that Hayman submit to GPS monitoring, continue any mental health treatment, stay away from school yards and other places where there might be children, and must not have access to an internet-capable device.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the type of hearing held Wednesday.