COLUMBIA CITY — A man is facing hard time after being found guilty of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot in Whitley County.
Anthony Custer, 49, of Fort Wayne, appeared in Whitley County Circuit Court for a two-day trial, and was convicted on Nov. 4. He is facing up to 40 years for attempted murder and 30 years for conspiracy to murder.
“A drug dealer organizing a ‘hit’ outside the jail doesn’t sound like something that happens here, but it can and it has,” said Prosecuting Attorney D.J. Sigler.
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.
“The outstanding work of Detective Cory Patrick and the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department prevented what could have been a genuine tragedy,” said Sigler. “The jury agreed that this was nothing short of a careful, methodical, willful effort to kill another human being.”
Sigler added, “these are difficult cases to hear, but we had a very thoughtful, thorough jury,” said Sigler. “They listened carefully and asked great questions of the witnesses.”
Custer will have his sentencing hearing Nov. 29 at 9 a.m.