Judge Refuses to Suppress Evidence in Dark Web “Murder-for-Hire” Case
An Illinois judge denied a motion to suppress evidence filed by the attorney of a woman suspected of paying a so-called “murder-for-hire” site on the dark web to kill a romantic rival earlier this year. The suspect, according to her attorney, had made statements to the police during an interview after being denied her right to counsel. Video evidence revealed that the defendant had never invoked her right to counsel during questioning.
After the police had received credible information about an attempted murder-for-hire case in DuPage County, Illinois, they requested an interview from the person suspected of funding the murder. Tina Jones, a 32-year-old from Des Plaines, responded to the police’s request for questioning by voluntarily entering the Woodridge Police Department and agreeing to a non-custodial interview. Before the interview began, detectives informed her that she was not under arrest and that she could freely leave. This is standard procedure. A detective asked her if she had done “something bad.” “I did,” she said in response. Stephen Hall, Jones’ attorney, argued that after Jones had responded to the question with an affirmative answer, the interview changed from a non-custodial interview to a custodial one.
The prosecutor, the detective who conducted the interview, and now DuPage County Judge George Bakalis have all disagreed that Jones’ admission changed the interview. According to a four-page ruling from Judge Bakalis, Jones’ admission did not constitute an admission to the crimes she had allegedly committed. Jones currently faces attempted murder in the first degree, two counts of solicitation of murder, and another four counts of murder-for-hire solicitation. Prior to her interview with the police, though, the police had not charged her with any crimes.
“She had been advised she was not under arrest and free to leave and her response does not admit to a criminal act,” the judge wrote in the response to the motion to suppress. As the interview proceeded, Jones continued to incriminate herself by directly responding to questions asked by the single detective conducting the interview. After admitting she had logged into the dark web murder-for-hire site, “Costra Nostra International Network,” and paid for the murder of the wife of her former affair partner, she asked the detective, “Do I need to get a lawyer or something like that?” Her attorney argued that at this point in the interview, her admission absolutely turned the non-custodial interview into a custodial interrogation.
Jones had admitted to committing a crime, the judge agreed. In her statement, she admitted to searching for ways to hire a hitman on the dark web to kill the wife of a former colleague at the Loyola University Medical Center where she had been working as a nurse. According to information revealed in court, Jones had developed a romantic relationship with a married employee of the medical center but the man ended the relationship after his wife had learned of the affair. The man chose to work things out with his wife, and Jones was not pleased by his decision. Even though countless news articles have proven that murder-for-hire sites are fraudulent, Jones chose to take her chances in an effort to eliminate her competition. She admitted spending $10,000 in bitcoin on the “Costra Nostra” murder-for-hire site. A CBS “48 Hours” investigation uncovered the plot after reading through the messages between the scammer in charge of the site and the person later identified as Jones. They forwarded this information to the Woodridge Police Department.
“Although she is later told that she is still free to leave, she had just admitted to acts indicating solicitation to commit murder,” the judge wrote in his ruling, “The court finds that she was in custody at this point. The next question is whether this statement constitutes a request for counsel. The court does not believe that it does.” The judge ruled that the question, “Do I need to get a lawyer or something like that?” was not a direct request for an attorney. Then, Jones signed a waiver acknowledging that the police had explained her Miranda rights. After the signed waiver, Jones continued to talk until the police told her that they would be seizing her laptop.
The judge ruled that evidence from the interview would be suppressed. Jones is scheduled to return to court next month. She is currently free again after her failed drug test was caused by a false positive.