A Mississippi woman admitted attempting to hire a hitman on the darkweb to murder her husband. She used her work computer to find and pay the hitman.
Jessica Leeann Sledge, 40, of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to one count of using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire. The case is a typical murder-for-hire case, except for Sledge’s interaction with undercover law enforcement officers.
In a criminal complaint filed in November 2021, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Justin Schmidt wrote that a source provided law enforcement with information about a murder-for-hire plot involving Sledge’s husband. It appears that a source–likely the same source referenced in most of these cases–provided the FBI in Knoxville with copies of chat logs from a murder-for-hire site on the darkweb. The records contained messages between Sledge and the administrator of the murder-for-hire site and proof that Sledge had sent the “hitman” $10,000 in Bitcoin to murder a target.
An undercover law enforcement officer, posing as the hitman, called Sledge and asked to speak with “Forward Only,” the username Sledge had used on the murder-for-hire site. Sledge confirmed that she was “Forward Only.” She also directed the undercover officer to contact her through her WhatsApp account under the same username.
During a series of recorded conversations over the phone and through WhatsApp, Sledge confirmed that she had paid $10,000 in Bitcoin to have her husband killed. She sent the undercover officer pictures of the target, pictures of his car, and updates on her husband’s whereabouts.
On November 1, 2021, Sledge agreed to meet the purported hitman in person in a Home Depot parking lot. During the meeting, Sledge paid the undercover officer an additional $1,000 in cash to complete the job and said she might hire him for another job. The victim of the next hit would be “a female who couldn’t keep her mind on her own business,” according to Special Agent Schmidt.
Later that day, law enforcement officers arrested Sledge at her place of employment. They asked Sledge if she knew anyone who wanted to hurt her husband. After some back and forth, the officers told Sledge that her husband was dead and placed her under arrest. (Obviously her husband was not dead at the time. And I assume he is still living.)
“She kind of told me about Tor. I asked Ms. Sledge about it in the interview. She explained it to me as a web browser… she downloaded to her work computer,” Special Agent Schmidt said. “She didn’t recall how she searched for a hitman.”
Investigators received permission from Sledge’s employer to access her work computer. Sledge gave the investigators her password. Later, an analyst “noticed things were deleted off the computer days after she was arrested.” They eventually learned that a person identified as Ollie Cliburn had remotely accessed Sledge’s computer after her arrest in an attempt to delete incriminating content. Sledge, according to WLBT, had an affair with Cliburn. Cliburn had also told Sledge to delete the Tor Browser off her work computer.
She will be sentenced on May 16, 2022. She faces up to ten years in prison.