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Crime News Snapped

Woman Turns to Old Friend to Murder Husband in Chilling Plot: "Psychopath"

Martie Soderberg wanted her husband dead, but the hitman went to the police instead to put her behind bars for 18 years.

By Grace Jidoun

When Martie Soderberg wanted her way, she turned to murder to get it.

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“Psychopath is the best way to describe her,” said police informant Martin Drake.

Drake was a homeless drug addict in Spokane County, Washington, when old high school pal Martie Soderberg, 39, messaged him on Facebook with a murder-for-hire proposition. The wife and mother wanted her husband, Russell Soderberg, dead, and she figured Drake was desperate enough to do it. She figured wrong.

Drake went straight to the police and was enlisted to help thwart her murderous plan. But catching this stay-at-home mom was trickier than anyone thought, as seen in a new episode of Snapped.

Why did Martie Soderberg want to kill her husband?

On October 11, 2016, Spokane County police got an unusual 911 call: Martin Drake wanted to report a murder that hadn’t happened yet.

“Frankly, it was somewhat unbelievable. Is this somebody just trying to get someone in trouble? Or is it real?” remembered Detective Marc Melville on Snapped.

Out of the blue, Drake’s old friend Martie invited him to lunch to catch up.

“We hadn’t talked in 20-some years, and that’s when she dropped the bomb that she was trying to get me to kill her husband,” said Drake. “I was sick to my stomach after my conversation with her.”

Martie Solderberg featured on Snapped Episode 3321

“Martie told Drake that she was unhappy in her marriage, but she couldn’t just get a divorce because she didn’t work,” said prosecutor Patrick Schaff, who explained that she had just taken out a $300,000 life insurance policy on her husband, and Drake was offered a cut of the payout.

Drake told Snapped that she had the deadly details all mapped out: She wanted the murder to happen on Halloween in front of their kids while they were trick-or-treating so she would have an alibi. What’s more, she offered to buy him whatever tools he needed to get the job done.

Halloween was just a few weeks away, “so time was of the essence,” said Detective John Oliphant — though he was still skeptical this was even real.

“Martin Drake had a lengthy criminal history. Mostly involving drugs, felony property crimes,” Schaff said, which gave detectives pause.

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Who is Martie Soderberg?

Jessica Blackshear, Martie’s oldest daughter, said she was once hopeful her “wild child” mom would calm down after meeting Russell, a divorcée and “family man.” After having Jessica at age 15, Martie had two more children before her early 20s. When Russell came along, “we thought maybe this was the turnaround for her 'cause he was a good guy,” Jessica said.

Russell was born and raised in Spokane County and worked for his family’s business as a glazier in a glass shop. Within three years of meeting each other through a local baseball league, the two were married and eventually welcomed a child into their blended family.

Blackshear fondly recalled going to Seattle Mariners baseball games together.

“It seemed like we were a normal family,” she told Snapped.

How was Martie Soderberg caught?

Police knew it was essential to keep the murder plot a secret from Russell so he wouldn’t confront her.

“She could have ran him over in the driveway, for all we know,” said Schaff.

Though they were leery of Drake’s criminal record at first, he ultimately was a “natural … I don’t know if an undercover officer could have done a better job than he did,” quipped Melville.

Drake wore a wiretap the next time he met with Martie while Detectives Oliphant and Melville monitored the conversation from a nearby car. It was a delicate situation: “If something tipped her off too far, there’s the potential she could have taken action against Mr. Drake,” remembered Melville. The conversation, parts of which are played on Snapped, instantly turned to murdering her husband.

When Drake asked if the life insurance policy had an exception for certain circumstances, Martie’s cold response sends shivers: “If he gets shot or whatnot like that, he’s covered,” she said with a laugh before noting that she went with the more expensive policy for this very reason.

Before the conversation ended, Martie floated the idea of a relationship with Drake.

“Let me ask, would you get married to me?” adding that she wanted to kiss him “so bad.”

While police were digesting this information, she threw another zinger: Drake wasn’t her first choice as a hitman. She approached a man named Dennis Bierky, but he declined.

“He aint’ going to say jack,” she said in wiretap audio, explaining that he was romantically interested in her and hoped to end up in a relationship. More importantly to police, she mentioned he had been involved in a 2013 fire that burned Martie and Russell’s mobile home to the ground. Detectives later discovered the couple had received a $58,000 insurance payout.

“I think Martie really enjoyed getting that large check for the fire. But that money went really fast … if last time she got tens of thousands of dollars, what if she gets hundreds of thousands this time,” wondered Schaff.

An attempted murder charge required a “substantial step taken,” explained Schaff, meaning they needed Martie to take actions that lead to murder. Drake agreed to act as bait, telling Martie he found a good deal on a gun, and they were to meet with the gun dealer in a parking lot. The detectives sat in a nearby car, watching. When she handed Drake money, it put the case “over the line,” said Schaff. Now they had enough for solicitation to commit murder, and she was arrested on the spot.

In video footage, Martie appeared nonchalant during police questioning, saying it was all a misunderstanding due to her “big mouth,” but once she realized she had been recorded, she stopped talking and asked for an attorney.

She maintained that Russell was physically abusive, which Russell denied in an interview on Snapped. The family admitted, however, that the relationship had become “toxic” around one topic in particular: money.

“Time after time, fighting over finances. Fighting because he would spend money on golf clubs, and she didn’t get to spend it on something else. Money was always a big thing for her. You borrow money from her, and it’s like selling your soul to the devil,” stated her daughter, Jessica.

Once police tracked down Dennis Bierky, the man connected to the mobile home fire, things unraveled further. He confirmed that he started the fire and also stated that she approached him to kill Russell. Charges of arson and insurance fraud were now on the table.

Her daughter Jessica was still a stalwart supporter of her mom, and she and her uncles hired a private attorney to work out a plea deal. But when the wiretap conversations were played in court, all bets were off.

“The audio was bad. It sealed what I feared the most, that she was guilty," she said.

Martie took the stand to talk her way out of it, but the verdict came back guilty of attempted murder, and she was sentenced to 15 years. In a separate trial for the fire, she received an additional three years for arson and fraud.

To this day, Jessica has not visited her mom in jail.

Russell, still appearing shocked years later on Snapped, recalled that the weekend before Martie was arrested, the couple had gone apple-picking and ate out at a restaurant. “I’m thinking, now, how is something this stupid going on?”

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