anthony custer

Anthony Custer

COLUMBIA CITY — The man involved in a murder for hire plot has now been sentenced to 35 years.

Anthony E. Custer, 50, of Fort Wayne, was found guilty of attempted murder, a Level 1 felony, and conspiracy to murder before a jury in early November. Custer appeared before the Whitley County Circuit Court Monday to be formally sentenced.

The case has its start in March of last year, amidst a drug investigation. A confidential informant was allegedly involved in purchasing methamphetamine from Custer. Custer was arrested in relation to this, and was being detained in the Whitley County jail as he was awaiting trial.

An inmate at the jail reported to officers he believed Custer was seeking a way to have the confidential informant killed. According to a recent press release the inmate “believed Custer was serious.”

Detectives then worked with the inmate to investigate the allegation. They placed a recording device on him, and were able to acquire a recording where Custer laid out plans for the murder. This, the release said, included “the method, manner and timing of the informant’s murder.”

The recording was a key piece of the case against Custer, and it was played in the court proceedings. On this recording Custer tells the other inmate, “this is my own thinking. I want (them) – I want (them) to pay the piper. I want (them) to [expletive] pay. I’ll deal with God later.”

Custer ended up paying $500 of the $3,000 set to commit the act, which was intended to be used for illegal substances to make the death look like an overdose.

“Custer then arranged to have the cash dropped off at the Whitley County Jail where it was intercepted by the detectives with the Sheriff’s Department,” the release said.

It was this investigation that led to the jury trial. Custer was convicted of the crimes by a jury of 12 people, six men and six women. They deliberated for two hours before the verdict was read.

To start the proceedings Monday, the victim in the case read a letter. In it, they highlighted their thanks to the sheriff’s department, prosecutor and jury to “see justice has been served.” They also thanked the community for their support, as well as the courts for “keeping the community safe.”

To Custer, they said, “you have accepted no responsibility, you have shown no remorse at all. You called me from jail when the protective order was in place. This shows me you have no respect for the law.”

They recounted the years of abuse suffered by Custer, but also said, “I had to survive you for years and finally get some time away from you so I can have a healthy life… I took my life back.”

Also to speak was the father’s victim, who affirmed, “You (Custer) have no respect for the law or anyone else,” adding, “to say you are a menace to society is an understatement. You are evil. You have not changed nor will you.”

In his argument to the court, Defense Attorney Anthony Churchward noted that according to court policy Custer could not be convicted of both attempted murder and conspiracy to murder in the same incident, which was acknowledged by the prosecutor and judge. Churchward also noted that while on bond on an underlying drug case, Custer spent time with the victim in the case, adding that he knew then they were working with the county as a confidential informant.

“Prior to being arrested in this offense he did spend time with (them) with no incident,” Churchward said.

He also argued that Custer never brought up the idea for murder until someone “put it out there that he had someone out who could commit the murder.”

He later noted that Custer did have a history of employment.

Prosecuting Attorney D.J. Sigler told the judge Custer was “seeking a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

“To be able to attempt that from a jail cell speaks much more loudly than a prosecutor could of a person’s intention and commitment to the endgame,” Sigler added.

He argued that Custer’s criminal history of five felonies and six misdemeanors should be considered aggravating factors. Sigler also argued the harm to the victim was significant, Custer’s substance abuse history was substantial, he has no dependents and Custer contacted the victim post-conviction.

“He still doesn’t get it,” said Sigler. “Do we really believe that he is somehow less likely to reoffend? That he has somehow learned his lesson? The answer is no and now is the time to quit giving him opportunity.”

When offered the chance to speak on his behalf, Custer refused, saying what he wanted to say was in the pre-sentence investigation report.

Judge Matthew Rentschler started his ruling by saying Custer had “arrived at a time in your (Custer’s) life where the court is convinced society needs to be protected from you.” Rentschler added that the maximum sentence of 40 years would not be appropriate, taking in factors of the case and investigation report.

Taking in those factors resulted in the 35 year sentence. Judge Rentschler ordered the sentence to be served in the Department of Corrections, and gave Custer 170 days credit for time already served.

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