A Long Island mother of four charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill her estranged husband asked an undercover detective if she should attend his funeral and wondered how she should act when police tell her he had been killed, prosecutors said today.
Susan Williams, 43, of Garden City, Long Island was arrested March 4, after police say she allegedly tried to hire a hit man for $20,000
The allegations were made during a bond hearing at a Nassau County courthouse today where a judge denied a request to lower Williams' $1 million bail.
According to a statement from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, on Feb. 19, Williams approached a confidential source and told him she wanted to have her husband, Peter Williams, murdered and she wanted the source to arrange the murder. However, instead of finding a hit man, the source contacted the DA's office.
That source turns out to be Joe La Bella, a retired New York City police detective, now a private investigator at East Coast Investigative Services.
"I was a little taken back, insulted that she would ask me something like that when she knew I was a retired detective," La Bella told ABC News.
"She hired me in May of 2008 to do an investigation," La Bella said. "She was in the process of starting the divorce procedure and she hired me to drum up some dirt on her husband."
But La Bella said he ended his investigation after finding no incriminating information on Peter Williams, but out of the blue, La Bella says Susan Williams wanted to meet again.
"A friend of hers contacted me three weeks ago and said Susan wants to meet. We made an appointment and met at a diner -- that's where we first talked about this," La Bella said about the alleged murder plot.
According to La Bella, Williams began venting about her husband and the divorce at their meeting before asking him if he knew of anybody who could do her husband harm.
At that point, La Bella said he went into "detective mode" to engage Williams about what she wanted to do. According to him, she soon switched her idea from harming her husband into murdering him.
La Bella went to the DA with this information and set up a meeting with Williams on Feb. 23, and prosecutors say she while she was under audio surveillance, La Bella told Williams he could arrange a meeting with a hit man.
"The conversations that this defendant had were very clear. In the beginning, it was 'I want him seriously injured.' And that turned into 'I want him gone. I want him gone,'" Rice told ABC's WABC-TV in New York. "At one point, when the person says to her, 'do you want him dead?' She says, 'I can't say that word, but she nods her head up and down,'" Rice said.
On Feb. 28, Williams met with a person she was allegedly told was a hit man, and during that meeting, according to Rice's office, Williams said she and her husband were in the middle of divorce proceedings and she wanted him dead. The "hit man" was actually an undercover Nassau County police detective.
According to Rice, the undercover detective informed Williams it would cost $20,000 to have her husband killed. The DA's office statement says at a March 3 meeting after being "given numerous opportunities to back out," Williams handed over a photo of her husband, his home and work address, license plate number and a $500 down payment for the hit to be carried out.
She was arrested March 4 by Nassau County police detectives and charged with conspiracy in the second degree and criminal solicitation in the second degree. Williams pleaded not guilty March 5 during her arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead, Long Island. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
"That this defendant so casually decided to organize the murder of her husband shocks the conscience," Rice said.
"The Nassau County District Attorney's office and the Nassau County police department have taken an aggressive role in fighting violent crime in our county," said Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey. "Clearly, we are pleased to be able to prevent an act of violence. It is essential that our offices share resources and expertise in order to apprehend and successfully prosecute crimes of this nature."
"Thanks to the investigative work performed by both the Nassau County Police department and members of my office, a life was saved and this defendant will now have to answer for her crimes," Mulvey said.
"I understand that we have audio tapes. What I'm more concerned about is what happened before those tapes," said Stanley Kopilow, Susan Williams' attorney at the time, told WABC.
Susan Williams now has dropped Kopilow as her attorney and hired Garden City lawyer John Carman who asked Nassau County Judge Joseph Calabrese today to lower Williams $1 million bail, according to Carole Trottere, Director of Communications for the Nassau County District Attorney.
Carman argued Williams posed no flight risk, was a mother of four and that her parents wanted to put up their home as collateral for her bail.
However Assistant District Attorney Jane Zwirn-Turkin argued that due to what they saw as premeditation on Susan Williams' part she did pose a flight risk.
"She had been discussing if she should go to her husband's funeral, how should she look and react when cops came to her house and told her that her husband was killed," Trottere said about new details revealed today in court from the audio and video recordings of Susan Williams allegedly discussing the hit on her husband with an undercover Nassau County detective.
Zwirn-Turkin alleged in court that Williams had also started thinking about destroying her computer and phone to cover up evidence.
Calabrese denied the defenses request and Williams remains in jail.
According to Trottere, Williams' family including her father, who is retired from the NYPD major case squad, and one daughter was in court today filling the front row. Williams arrived in a black SUV, dressed in the same tan coat she was arrested in.
"The kid looked very sad," Trottere said about Williams' daughter.
Susan and Peter Williams were married 21 years until Susan Williams filed for divorce in 2008.
Peter Williams, who owns a Long Island fence business, has since moved out of their Garden City home. They have four children ages 11 to 19. Peter Williams was granted custody of the children on Monday by the court.
Calls to attorneys for both Peter and Susan Williams for additional comment were not immediately returned.