Aiken murder for hire plot foiled

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News 12 at 6 o'clock; April 25, 2008

AIKEN, S.C. --- A mother and wife is behind bars this evening, after she was arrested and accused of a murder-for-hire plot against her husband.

Investigators made the arrest of 41-year-old Margaret Stephens on Thursday afternoon at the Save-A-Lot parking lot, located right down the street from the Sheriff's Office.

The person Stephens was trying to work with ended up being an undercover investigator with the Sheriff's Office. The investigator stepped in after the Sheriff's Office got a tip from an informant that Stephens wanted to hire someone to plan and kill her husband.

News 12's Gene Petriello talked with neighbors who live right around the Stephens' home. Their reaction was mixed.

Ricky Sullivan was planning his next strategic move on his video game in his home on Friday afternoon, when he first found out about his neighbors apparent strategic plan to have her husband killed.

"I couldn't believe it and was shocked and it's whew. It's weird; you wouldn't think she would do something like that," says Sullivan. "It makes you realize that people can do anything. You can't trust anybody."

Even those in your own family. Investigators say Margaret agreed to pay $2,000 to have her husband killed, but the Sheriff's Office stopped it. She wanted to have the murder look like an accident.

Ricky was surprised, but another neighbor told News 12, "I'm not surprised at all."

Sandra Harp lives right across the street from the Stephens. She talked with Margaret's teenage son Thursday afternoon.

"(He said) my mom's in jail for trying to kill my step-dad and he said, ‘I don't care’. He said, ‘I hope she stays there’," says Sandra.

Neighbors say they have seen evidence the family has been having problems.

"Just recently, they started fighting a lot," says Ricky. "They were yelling at each other, throwing things around. She tore a dog house apart with the new dog she just got."

The Stephens house lies still now. There are just their animals in the yard.

"They almost seemed like a normal couple that's got problems," says Ricky.

Now, those apparent problems include legal problems too.

The charge against Margaret is Solicitation to Commit a Felony, in this case, murder. That could carry up to a 10 year prison sentence. She is expected to have a bond hearing on Saturday morning.

We'll continue to follow this story as developments become available.

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