Quick Commentary

Case Study: How Not to Poison Someone

Body outline by Nemo (PD CC0)

Body outline by Nemo (PD CC0)

I’m not a big fan of murder.  You know, the cold-blooded style.  And poisoners are the worst of the lot.  Sneaky and cowardly.  Why the disdain?  Because of the effort.  It takes a lot of work to be a poisoner.  You’ve got to plan it out, obtain the poison, and somehow administer it.  All the while, any number of things can derail the poisoning, and throughout the process the poisoner has multiple chances to ask “What the heck am I doing?” and back out.  But worse than that, they all think they can get away with it.  That’s just straight up hubris.  I hate poisoner hubris.  Want to know the key to a successful poisoning?  Know your poison.  Good thing criminals are dumb.

Case in point: In 1987 an Orange County, California woman, Margo Thibault, attempted to murder her then husband with the aid of her boyfriend, William Lemke.  First, Margo forged her husbands name to increase his life insurance up to $300,000.  Then, over the course of several months, the dastardly duo hired four different hit-men.  One of them was transgendered, and transitioning from male to female, so I’m not sure what type of “hit” to call them.  Regardless, each hit-person (there we go) backed out.  The last one, David “Jan” Lamb was to receive $10,000, which he planned to use for his sex-change operation.  Probably in Trinidad, Colorado, the sex-change capital of the world.  I’ve been there.  A dusty town in the middle of freakin’ nowhere, but good green chile.

Lamb backed out and called authorities because Margo canceled his flight out to California to carry out the murder.  Can you imagine the detective assigned to that case?

Detective: So let me get this straight.  You were going to kill someone for money?
Lamb: Yes.
Detective: You do know that’s a crime, right?
Lamb: Yeah, but understand this, Margo is a horrible person.
Detective: Because she hired you to kill her husband?
Lamb: No, because the bitch canceled my flight.
Detective: Ummmmm…..yeah.

And just how was Margo going to kill her husband?  With poison, of course.  Let’s go down the checklist I outlined earlier:

Plan it out: Hire David “Jan” Lamb . . . . check
Obtain the poison: Buy curare for $250 . . . . check
Administer the poison: Smear curare on husband’s steering wheel . . . . Houston, we have a problem.

1974 Buick Electra steering wheel by That Hartford Guy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

1974 Buick Electra steering wheel by That Hartford Guy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you read the previous post on curare, you already know what the problem is.  Curare is only active when injected into the circulatory system, like with an arrow.  A steering wheel is not an arrow.  Curare has little to no topical activity.  Maybe if he had massive cuts on his hands we’d be in business, but how likely is that?  If Margo and “Jan” spent less time bickering over airline tickets, and more time in a library, they could have cracked open an Encyclopedia and figured this out.  But noooo.  I told you criminals are dumb.

So what happened with this fiasco?  “Jan” taped some phone calls for the police, Margo and boyfriend William were arrested, the four hit-people gained immunity in exchange for their testimony, and a trial ensued.  Margo ended up with a sentence of 10.5 years and William received 7.5 years, both longer than what sentencing guidelines suggested.  Let’s call it a stupid tax.

*** [Homepage featured image of 1974 Buick Electra by IFCAR (CC0)] ***

References:
“Woman on Trial for Alleged Murder Plot Asks About Buying Poison in Recording.” Los Angeles Times. 17 July 1991. <http://articles.latimes.com/1991-07-17/local/me-2474_1_alleged-murder-plot>

“Woman Sentenced for Plotting Murder.” Los Angeles Times. 5 Nov 1991. <http://articles.latimes.com/1991-11-05/local/me-896_1_woman-sentenced>

“Man Gets 7 1/2 Years for Plot on Husband.” Los Angeles Times. 5 Nov 1991. <http://articles.latimes.com/1991-11-26/local/me-248_1_richard-thibault>

990 F. 2d 1265 – United States v. Thibault-Lemke <http://openjurist.org/990/f2d/1265/united-states-v-thibault-lemke>

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9 thoughts on “Case Study: How Not to Poison Someone

  1. All this really confirms the difficulty of finding a qualified hit man.

    Turning a skin-nonpermeable toxin into a contact poison can be done with zero skill or effort. (You don’t need a lab, health supplement stores actually sell the additive; I thought pretty much anyone with a medchem background would know about this)

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