Sunday, June 1, 2008

Officials: W. Valley man tried to hire killer

As Frank Arnold worked his way through divorce proceedings with his wife of some 10 years, authorities allege, he also had murder on his mind.

The 59-year-old West Valley mortgage broker allegedly spent months trying to find a hit man to off his wife and, on Thursday evening, made good on his intentions by giving a $1,500 down payment to a would-be killer who turned out to be an undercover detective, the authorities said.

Arnold reportedly arranged the meeting in the parking lot at Cabela's in Glendale with the hired gun after settling on a price of $4,500 for the contract killing, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

He appeared in court Friday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder and solicitation of murder and was placed under house arrest at his Peoria home with a $750,000 bond.

Detectives learned about the alleged plot a couple of days ago, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. They acted quickly to contact Arnold because he wanted his wife Mara dead by Monday, according to court documents.

"The scary part of this was, he was serious," Arpaio said. "The undercover detective said, 'Are you sure?' 'Are you sure?,' trying to give him the chance to back out."

The sheriff said Arnold tried for months to find a hit man, but his job at Olympic Mortgage in Peoria made it difficult for him to make contacts in the underworld. Officials at Olympic Mortgage declined to comment.

"He wasn't out there with the criminal element," Arpaio said.

Sheriff's officials said Arnold's efforts started in February, two months after his wife took out an order of protection against him and three months after Arnold initiated divorce proceedings.

Court records indicate the couple had agreed on a number of issues in the divorce by early March, but several issues were still in dispute, including custody, child support and who would get, among other possessions, a quad and an R.V. The couple was due back in court in July.

Authorities said the plot was an attempt to get back his 10-year-old son, whom Arnold's wife took with her when she left town a couple of months ago.

Arnold was aware of the danger involved in the plot, court documents suggest:

Thursday afternoon, in the Cabela's parking lot, detectives watched as Arnold walked around and looked in the windows of a car with tinted windows then left. When the supposed hit man called Arnold's cellphone a couple hours later to confirm the meeting time and place, Arnold told the detective that he'd seen a car in the store's lot that looked like an undercover police car, so the men moved their meeting time.

But the detective managed to put Arnold's mind at ease when Arnold allegedly handed over $1,500 at about 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Authorities said Arnold pledge to pay the remaining $3,000 once his estranged wife was dead.

By the time Arnold got out of the undercover officer's car, special investigations deputies were there to meet him with handcuffs.

Reporter Lindsey Collom contributed to this story.

Original Article- with video

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