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Murder For Hire, Cults, And Family Ties — Ways People Have Manipulated Others Into Killing

There are all sorts of ways masterminds of murder have manipulated their victims.

Where there’s a will to kill, there’s a way — and there are also calculating people who know how to get a helping hand from others to do it.

That’s one key takeaway of the new Oxygen series “Mastermind of Murder,” premiering Sunday, April 18 at 8:30/7:30c on Oxygen. The series focuses on people who manipulate others into doing their dirty work for them.

How do you get someone to commit the ultimate act of violence? Sex, religion, money, drugs, and threats are just some of the tools that are put in use. While awaiting the debut of “Mastermind of Murder,” consider these cases from the Oxygen vault in which people convinced others to kill for them. 

Murder For Hire

Money talks. And for people who are looking for an accomplice to murder, they know that cold cash can turn people into cold-blooded killers.

How common are contract killings? A widely cited study by the Australian Institute for Criminality found that 2 percent of homicides fell into that category. 

What’s the price of a person’s life? The same research found that the average payment for a hit was $15,000.

Kimberly Baldwin, an Indiana woman enraged by the custody and child-support arrangement in the wake of her divorce, paid $10,000 to arrange the 2002 murder of her ex-husband Frank Parker.

She shelled out that sum to Findley Paul Thompson, whom she met through a church group and then used as a pawn. Thompson blasted Parker with a sawed-off shotgun and ammo that Baldwin provided. 

In 2005, Baldwin received 115 years for being the brains behind the crime. Thompson got 85 years for his part in the murder. 

The 1999 murder-for-hire case of Dr. Kenneth Stahl is a prime example of how contract killings can backfire, though. Stahl and his medical assistant Adriana Vasco were having an affair and hatched a plot to kill Stahl’s wife to avoid a pricey divorce. 

However, Dennis Earl Godby, the hitman hired and paid a “substantial sum” to execute the wife, also killed the plotting husband. 

Deadly Cults

A recognized international cult authority estimated that as of 2018, as many as 10,000 cults still exist today in the United States. Cult leaders, individuals who have a way of preying upon and manipulating people to bend to their will, can inspire members to do anything. That includes murder. 

Charles Manson immediately comes to mind as the most famous cult leader, as he led followers to savagely butcher actress Sharon Tate and her friends. But heads of other sects have sparked similar acts of homicidal devotion.

In October 1978, weeks after winning a suit against Synanon, a California cult founded by Charles Dederich, attorney Paul Morantz was bitten by a rattlesnake that had been jammed into his mailbox. The snake’s rattles, telltale clues to its presence, had been removed. 

Synanon members Joe Musico and Lance Kenton pleaded no contest to attempted murder and were sentenced to one year in jail. Dederich pleaded no contest to charges of conspiracy to commit murder. 

Morantz suffers from a lifelong illness related to the rattlesnake venom, which requires him to receive blood transfusions every other week. 

In 1990, cult leader and master manipulator Gerald Cruz led his followers in a brutal rampage sparked by a disagreement that killed four in Salida, California. Victims all suffered blunt force trauma and multiple stab wounds, and one woman had been nearly decapitated. 

Cruz and followers Richard Vieira and James Beck were convicted and are on death row. Jason LaMarsh, another member, was sentenced to 64 years for his part in the crimes.

Family Ties, Threats, and Coercion

After their widowed mother’s still unsolved 1987 murder, Catherine Suh dedicated herself to bringing up her little brother, Andrew. That created an exceptionally tight bond that she exploited seven years later. 

In 1993, Catherine called Andrew, who was in school, and said that her boyfriend, Robert O’Dubaine, was beating her and stealing money. She said that Andrew needed to take action, and he did. 

O’Dubaine was shot to death on September 25, 1993. In his confession, Andrew said he committed murder out of a sense of family duty — and not for a share of O’Dubaine's $250,000 insurance policy.

Andrew Suh is currently serving his sentence and is eligible for parole in 2034. Catherine Suh is serving life without parole. 

Tune into the premiere of “Mastermind of Murder” on April 18 at 8:30/7:30c on Oxygen.

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