Baldwin County sisters charged in murder-for-hire plot

BY TREVOR RITCHIE
Reporter
trevor@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 5/15/24

A trio of sisters, including two from Baldwin County -- Mitzy Smith, 54 off Fairhope, Judy Owen, 61 of Silverhill, and Sandra Grimes, 57 of Niceville, Florida -- was arrested on Friday, May 10 and charged with …

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Baldwin County sisters charged in murder-for-hire plot

Posted
A trio of sisters, including two from Baldwin County -- Mitzy Smith, 54 of Fairhope, Judy Owen, 61 of Silverhill, and Sandra Grimes, 57 of Niceville, Florida -- was arrested on Friday, May 10 and charged with conspiracy to commit murder for hire, conspiracy to transfer a firearm to be used in a violent crime and use of interstate commerce facilities to commit murder for hire.

Testimony in federal court on Tuesday, May 14, accuses the sisters of spending weeks to plan a hit on a Louisiana man, per FBI Special Agent Jennifer Whitehurst. The agent claims the FBI became aware of the plot earlier this month and testified that the sisters wanted to have Grimes' son-in-law murdered due to what the complaint explains was his ongoing physical abuse of her daughter and grandchildren, in addition to allegations involving drugging Grimes' daughter and forcing her to commit unwanted sexual acts with others.

The sisters supposedly originally gave a man $10,000 to take the job, but he disappeared with the payout, ultimately leading them to hire five-time convicted felon Rebecca Murphy in February to have the son-in-law killed, according to the complaint. Murphy, previously Smith's neighbor in the Barnwell area, allegedly had Owen pay a $500 vet bill, got offered additional payment and was taken on multiple trips to Louisiana by Grimes and Owen. The agent also claims not only were funds provided by Owen with the intention of Murphy buying heroin, to make it appear as if the man had overdosed, but also a box carrying a 9mm gun via Smith in case other measures were necessary.

"I think it's a very weak case, other than the entertainment value of a crazy Alabama story," Smith's attorney, Dom Soto, told Gulf Coast Media.

"The only tangible thing I think that they have is the gun," Soto added. "They have some text messages between Owen and (Murphy), but at present, we don't know what's in there. Often on a gun they will do a DNA sample -- that might lead somewhere."
 
Murphy rejected further involvement in the plot and informed the FBI in early May as to what the sisters were reportedly attempting to accomplish. Whitehurst claims Murphy didn't come forward sooner out of fear, after being threatened by the sisters, and cited that she couldn't go through with the plans after one sister expressed a lack of concern for whether the man died in front of Grimes' grandchildren.

"We would explain that as an excuse," Soto stated. "I've seen pictures of this woman. She's a big woman, and she's afraid of these little old ladies?"

Smith, a cancer survivor who cares for eight children, has been allowed to live at home under house arrest and electronic monitoring. Owen gave up her right to a preliminary hearing, with Grimes' preliminary hearing taking place on Wednesday, May 15.