Murder for Hire? Looking for a Hit Man

Some have paid thousands for allegedly asking someone else to commit murder.

Nov. 9, 2010— -- From the famous turned infamous, the young and old, there is now a flurry of high-profile cases involving murder for hire: people who have allegedly paid off hit men to kill for them, and sometimes not succeeding.

Examples include former Food Network star Juan Carlos Cruz, who will be sentenced next month after he was convicted of trying to pay two homeless men to kill his wife. Last month, there was an arraignment in Ohio of a mother-in-law accused of plotting to hire an assassin to kill her son-in-law.

Dalia Dippolito, a newlywed who was secretly recorded by Boynton Beach police allegedly negotiating terms for her husband's death, will go on trial in Florida after being charged with attempting to arrange his murder. A few weeks ago Matthew Campbell, a 19-year-old from Billings, Montana, was arrested, also for allegedly trying to buy murder. He was charged with using of Interstate Commerce Facilities in commission of Murder for Hire, according to court documents.

Campbell wrote a letter from jail to his mother Dana, who read it aloud to ABC News.

"I hope you will somehow talk to me and maybe forgive me some day," Campbell read from her son's letter.

It's an eerie message, especially after Campbell learned from an FBI agent that she was the target for the hit man her son allegedly hired.

"He asked to speak to me out in private and he said, 'I hate to be the one to inform you, but we've been notified that there's been a contract put out on your life,'" Campbell said of the conversation with the FBI agent. "It sounds insane."

Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett has worked for 20 years on some of the FBI's most difficult and high-profile cases, including getting confessions from one of the D.C. snipers, according to his website. He said he has worked on many of these "murder for hire" situations. He added that most of the time, the clients looking to pay assassins are inexperienced.

"Ninety-nine percent of these murder(s) for hire are done by these amateurs," he said.

Garrett added that the clients often don't fully understand what they're getting themselves into by paying someone else to do the killings.

"Murder for hire has been around forever because people believe in their sort of naive state that they can step to someone else, have them commit the murder, and at the very worst, that person will get caught and go to jail and they won't," he explained.

From Using Undercover Cops to Staging Murders

Dippolito learned this fact to her regret, according to prosecutors, as a now notorious video clip of her has been circling on YouTube. In the clip, Dippolito appeared to be hammering out the when and where of her husband's murder. The problem was that the supposed hit man she was allegedly plotting with was actually an undercover cop.

Garrett said it is common for clients to approach someone they know with a shady past for help with the nefarious plan, and that's when they get caught.

"They don't know who to step to, so what they do is step to a friend or an associate or someone they know from their past who has served time in prison, thinking that person could connect them or would connect them," Garrett explained. "What happens the vast majority of the time (is that) the person they step to goes to law enforcement."

Once law enforcement is involved, Garrett said, the next step is to stage a false murder. In Dippolito's case, she returned home one day only to be greeted by a policeman who said her husband was murdered inside their house. It was a setup for police to see how she would react.

Even in the interrogation room after she was brought in for questioning, Dippolito continued to speak as the shocked widow. Garrett explained that even though the police were in on the fake murder, they were trying to see if Dippolito would crack and tell the truth.

"A case is always much better if you can get people to actually admit that they have committed this act," he said.

Dippolito allegedly told her fake hit man she would pay $3,000, plus the cost of a gun, to get rid of her husband.

In the case of Matthew Campbell, he allegedly negotiated to pay his hired assassin $5,000 up front, and then $5,000 after he murdered Campbell's mother.

Campbell's mother told ABC News she is still in shock, and doesn't understand why her son would plot to kill her.

Matthew's sister Nikki, who also may have been targeted by her brother, said she never saw this coming and didn't think Matthew would do it for money.

"He knows that even if my mom was gone, he knows that two of us are still here so he's not going to get full financial gain out of what my mom owns," she said. "The whole idea that your brother would kill you it just sounds so completely off the reservation."

In his apology letter to his mother, Campbell apparently explained that he did it because he was in way over his head and the whole thing was a big misunderstanding.

"I was so scared mom. I didn't know what else to do. I thought I was really dealing with a real hit man that wouldn't hesitate to do anything, like in the movies. So I made a phony plan to this just to get him away from me," his mother read from her son's letter.

Dana isn't buying her son's excuse though. "I do love him. I do. He's my son and no matter what I will always love him," she said. "[But] no, I don't trust him at all."

ABC News' Lauren Effron contributed to this report.