|Gayle Jean Thornberry (mug shot JPD)|
A Joplin woman was arrested over the weekend in a murder for hire plot to kill a woman from Webb City.
Sergeant Charla Geller with the Joplin police Department say officers took Gayle Jean Thornberry, 45, into custody Saturday February 12th at the Capri Motel, 3401 S. Main, after she attempted to obtain a "throw-down" weapon from an undercover agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office of the Department of Homeland Security.
Geller says that detectives received a report on February 6th that Thornberry was trying to hire someone to kill the adoptive mother of her biological grandchildren. Geller says Thornberry had been in touch with the children's biological mother who lives in North Carolina and "made reference to wanting to tamper with the Webb City woman's brake lines. She wanted the woman's murder to be quick and silent, and she indicated she would throw the murder weapon into the ocean in Florida."
The boyfriend of Geller's daughter contacted authorities. Since the information came from North Carolina, federal agents were contacted and the ICE agent, who also works with the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, was assigned the case.
Court documents indicate that Thornberry had discussed taking out a life insurance policy on the woman with her daughter, then collecting on the policy after she was murdered.
As law enforcers were building their case against Thornberry, she started talking with her daughter about another method to kill the woman. "In recorded phone calls with her daughter she said she could tase her and shoot her up with methamphetamine," Geller said. "She also said she would sell the woman's biological child to pay for her grandchildren's expenses.
That's when authorities knew they needed to act quickly...they were almost certain she didn't have a firearm at that point, but weren't sure if she had access to a taser.
Geller says police aren't releasing the Webb City woman's name at this time because they are attempting to reach other potential victims in the plot. "We hope to release more information tomorrow."
The probable cause statement says that Geller admitted to discussing alleged plots to kill the woman, "but they were all fantasy."
Thornberry, who pleaded guilty to making a false police report in 2009 and 2010 has had several order of protections for stalking filed against her, has been charged with murder for hire and is behind bars in Newton County on $500,000 bond.