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Mother Hires Hitman To Murder Son-In-Law Who Was Allegedly Abusing Daughter
Was Jacqueline Ray trying to protect her daughter, or was there something more sinister at play?
Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and infamous murders throughout history.
On July 12, 2012, a couple was walking their dog in Gig Harbor, Washington, when they stumbled upon something shocking — the body of 33-year-old Leon Baucham. Initially, they thought it was a hit-and-run accident, but police sensed a more sinister motive.
"He had white duct tape around his wrists, around his ankles and face, his nose and eyes area. It was obviously some sort of a homicide, it wasn’t hit and run," Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Mark Merod told Oxygen's "Snapped."
Authorities determined he had been shot once in the upper back.
"That led me to believe that he was shot during some sort of a scuffle. Whether this was an intentional gunshot wound. It certainly wasn’t an execution. We knew that he had been dumped, because we have drag marks through the brush," explained Merod.
Evidence was minimal, but police did find Styrofoam packing peanuts and a Dora the Explorer card near the body.
What caused such a heinous act in this idyllic, tourist town?
Baucham was a local boy and grew up in nearby Tacoma.
"He was super intelligent. As soon as he got into something, he wanted to know everything about it, and he did whatever he could to learn it," shared his sister Rachel Baucham to "Snapped."
His friend, Ron Pratt, remembered him with admiration:, telling "Snapped:" "He kind of had this presence about him, where people — he kind of just commanded respect."
In 2001, he began dating a beautiful woman named Umeko Roberts. The couple quickly became serious. Baucham even became a second father to Umeko's son, a role that her mother, Jacqueline "Jackie" Ray, had been filling prior.
"You could just tell that Jackie and Umeko were very, very close," said Umeko's friend Tranique Renee to "Snapped."
Pratt added, "Jackie did everything for her. She was very protective of her."
It seemed like a picture-perfect modern family. Baucham and Umeko married in 2008, and Ray was supportive. The couple went on to have two children of their own.
When authorities told Umeko about the murder, she was completely distraught. But when they questioned her further, she revealed that the couple was having issues. Umeko said that since her mother was still able to help out at home with the children, she could pursue her own career.
Baucham's mother Lavonne Dakeku told "Snapped," "She wanted to get out of the house, so she started working customer service for a cable company."
Umeko said that's when their problems started.
Rachel explained, "She had been home for so long and hadn't been out, and now she's out. And she’s getting all this attention. She's a beautiful girl."
According to Umeko, Baucham was jealous and became more controlling. Authorities found out that the victim even attached a tracking device to his wife's phone to keep tabs on her. Umeko thought it would all blow over, but things took a turn for the worse. Umeko told authorities that one fight turned physical, and it left her with a fractured eye socket. When Ray found out Baucham had punched her daughter, she called the cops.
Upon deeper investigation, authorities found out that Baucham suspected Umeko of having an affair with a co-worker. His family shared that he saw a racy message between Umeko and another man, and that's when he lost it.
"That’s when he slapped her," says Baucham's mother.
This disclosure led authorities to believe that Umeko could have had a motive to kill her husband.
"I had a pretty strong suspicion she was somehow involved," said Merod.
But, a new observation piqued their interest — Baucham's body was found "just a mile" from Ray's house.
Could Jackie Ray have been involved? Upon questioning, Ray said that she saw a violent side to her son-in-law and encouraged Umeko to leave him. Ray also said she had been a victim of domestic abuse in the past and didn't want her daughter to go through the same trauma.
She explained that the day before Baucham's body was discovered, Umeko apparently told her that there'd been another fight. Ray got her daughter a hotel room and told her to bring her kids there. After paying for the room, Ray said she left town to go camping with friends.
Baucham's friend Pratt, however, gave testimony that disputed Ray's story. According to him, he spoke with Baucham later that night, and he said he was going to Ray's house to talk to Umeko, even though Umeko was still at the hotel.
Merod questioned, "Was [Jackie] the one that actually had killed him? I didn’t think so, so it kinda raised the question of, 'Who did?'"
Ray's phone records cracked the case wide open. Authorities found text messages with an ex-con named Luis Barker. Ultimately, Ray admitted that she had Barker commit the crime.
"Jackie told us she had contacted Luis Barker, and she asked him if he would have Leon killed," says Merod. The cost? $10,000. Ray explained that after she met Umeko at the hotel, she stole her phone and brought it back to her house, knowing Baucham would track it and confirm Umeko was at her mother's house.
She then called him and told him to come over and speak with Umeko. Once he arrived, Ray and Barker confronted Baucham with a gun. She claimed she turned away and then heard a shot. Once Baucham was dead, Barker and an accomplice wrapped him up in duct tape and a tarp. She said the men drove off to dump his body. During a search of Ray's van, authorities found a cardboard box with "the same popcorn-shaped packing peanuts" found near Baucham's body and "a handful of Dora the Explorer cards."
Ray contended that Umeko knew nothing about the hit, and Umeko was never charged in the investigation.
"Jackie felt helpless not knowing what to do, like, helpless for her daughter, didn't know how to help her daughter, scared for her daughter," said Renee.
Despite her self-professed good intentions, Ray was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, according to KOMO News. Ray ended up taking a deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for cooperating during the police's investigation into Barker.
After incriminating himself on a wiretap during a conversation with Ray, Barker was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, reported The Seattle Times. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2013, according to Q13 Fox.
During sentencing, Ray contended that she was a victim of abuse and that she had only had Bauchman killed in order to protect her daughter.
Umeko told the court that her mother made "a horrible choice," but that she "was trying to protect me. ... I love her very much."
The judge sentenced her to 18 years in prison.
The third accomplice has never been identified or charged in the murder. Meanwhile, the incarcerated Ray is still close with Umeko.
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