Other killers for cash
Although organized crime is most closely associated with professional killers plying their trade for cash in the public mind it is certainly not the only place hired killers are found. Husbands and wives seek out hired killers to eliminate their spouses rather than endure the cost and bitterness of divorces. Divorce lawyers are frequently the target of hired killers, as are business associates, lovers and ex-lovers, perceived enemies and the targets of grudges, and those who will pass on large estates or insurance settlements. Gavrilo Princip, whose shots helped to start the First World War, was a killer who paid for his actions. So were the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich during the Second World War.
Charles Harrelson, the father of American actor Woody Harrelson, was a killer for hire. In 1968 Harrelson was paid the sum of $2,000 to kill a Texas grain dealer named Sam Degelia, for which he was tried with the result of a hung jury. A second trial in 1973 led to his conviction and a five to fifteen-year sentence, and he was released in 1978. The same year he was hired by a drug dealer to execute the federal judge before which the drug dealer was to be tried. Although Harrelson was convicted of the judge’s murder he claimed that he did not kill him, but merely claimed to in order to collect his fee. Harrelson died in prison in 2007.
Glennon Engleman was a former US Army Air Corps veteran who used the GI Bill to cover his expenses as he earned a degree in dentistry from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduation he set up a practice in St. Louis, often offering free dental services for those unable to pay for them. He also worked as a killer for hire, contriving schemes to murder victims allowing their beneficiaries to collect on their life insurance policies, from which he extracted a fee for his services. Suspected in several additional murders, he was convicted of five, the first three in 1985, and two additional convictions in 1999. He died in prison in 1999.
Michael Danton played professional hockey in the NHL when he attempted to hire a hitman to kill his agent, David Frost. Danton pleaded guilty to the charges but later changed his position, claiming that the target was not to have been Frost, but instead Danton’s father, Steven Jefferson, from whom Danton was estranged. At any rate, the hitman he contacted was not a hitman at all, but an undercover police dispatcher. Danton’s bad judgment continued, in 2008 the man who served as his lawyer was found to have never graduated from law school and was thus not legally allowed to practice law in the jurisdiction where the case was tried. After serving five years in prison, Danton returned to professional hockey.
Murder for hire has existed throughout history and will continue as long as there are those who desire someone dead enough to be willing to pay for it and those who find no difficulty in accomplishing the deed. Hitmen, contract killers, guns for hire, and many other descriptions have long been applied to those willing to commit a killing for a profit, and the business has thrived since ancient times. The chilling murders committed by the members of Murder Inc. are frightening in the cold-blooded manner in which they were performed, but no more or less so than those committed by others every day, all around the world.
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