A York-area business owner accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife's lover might have had an agreement with the man, "but it was not to kill (anyone)," defense attorney Farley Holt said Friday.
Holt represents Gregory Allen Hess, co-owner of Keystone Restorations & Builders Inc., who is accused of paying a confidential informant $1,900 to kill York County resident Christopher Ward, who was involved with Hess' wife, Laurie Hess, testimony revealed.
Holt would not yet say what agreement Hess might have made with the man, a confidential informant for the York County Drug Task Force.
The informant and a state trooper testified at Hess' preliminary hearing Friday, after which District Judge Richard Martin determined enough evidence exists for Hess to stand trial.
In what one legal expert called an unusual circumstance, the informant was not identified by name during the proceeding and was called to the stand as "Informant 1."
Chance meeting: The informant, who said he grew up in York but now lives in Harrisburg, testified he was driving to his mistress' home near Farquhar Park in April when he saw Hess working on a roof and stopped to talk to him about his own leaky roof. The informant had never met Hess before, he said.
The next day, he drove past Hess again in the same area and the two talked, he said. During that conversation Hess asked what it would cost for the informant to "bang" — meaning murder — someone, the informant testified.
Hess agreed to pay the informant between $30,000 and $50,000 to kill Ward and then kill Laurie Hess "one, two or three weeks" later, the informant said, adding Hess gave him photos of Ward and his home. No exact dollar amount for the hits was finalized, he said.
The informant said he called state police Trooper Shawn Wolfe, a member of the Drug Task Force, but it took a few days to reach the trooper.
'Frustrated': After waiting a couple days for Ward to be killed, Hess became impatient and offered the informant a $1,000 bonus to do the job immediately, the informant said.
"He got so frustrated," the informant said, and allegedly told the informant, "I want it done. Get it done. I need it done, period."
By that time, Wolfe had organized a sting operation in which he recorded calls between Hess and the informant, testimony revealed. Wolfe also orchestrated a meeting between Hess and the informant at a Loucks Road restaurant and gave the informant a staged photo of a supposedly dead Ward lying in a parking lot, Wolfe testified.
Wolfe also had the informant drive Ward's vehicle to meet Hess and instructed the man to show Hess the staged photo of Ward, the trooper testified.
Wife 'kidnapped': He had the informant tell Hess that Laurie Hess had been kidnapped and was being held at a building in East York, according to testimony.
Wolfe testified Hess initially refused to give the informant any money until he knew his wife had been released. In reality, police had already made sure both Ward and Laurie Hess were safe, the trooper testified, and the informant convinced Hess to hand over payment immediately.
That's when Hess walked to his truck, retrieved a white envelope and handed it to the informant, Wolfe said. Troopers arrested Hess and retrieved the envelope — containing $1,900 — from the informant, he said.
Under cross-examination by Holt, Wolfe confirmed that after being arrested Hess told him, "This whole thing just got blown out of proportion."
Hess, 46, of 1950 Hoff Road in North Codorus Township, remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with solicitation to commit homicide.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.