Minutes before his shoplifting trial was set to begin in York County Court, Timothy W. Bryce made a startling claim.
He confessed he'd been hired as a hit man to kill York-based state Trooper Brad Dunham, and that his client had given him a gun and a $500 advance to do the job. He said he only agreed to the plan because he felt intimidated.
Bryce, who also goes by the name "Jack DeMarco," even offered to take investigating troopers to the drainpipe where he said "client" Richard Jason Dymond had stashed the cash and gun, according to court documents.
But he refused to lead police there until prosecutors agreed not to seek prison time against him for his shoplifting case.
Gun, cash found: Prosecutors postponed the trial, and Bryce took troopers to a drainpipe along Potosi Road in Springfield Township on April 4, 2010. There, they found $500 cash, a gun and rubber gloves, just as Bryce described.
They immediately started investigating Dymond, according to senior deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake.
Troopers kept up their investigation for about a month until they were able to file criminal charges -- but not against Dymond.
It was Bryce they charged, alleging he made up the whole thing to dodge another stint in prison.
Not airtight: "His plan was far from airtight," Blake said. "It started unraveling pretty quickly."
Court documents reveal investigators became suspicious of Bryce's story right away, in part because he waffled about taking a lie-detector test.
Troopers determined the $500 in the drainpipe was Bryce's own money, withdrawn from one of his bank accounts on April 13, 2010, documents state.
Then his wife told police her husband made up the "hit man" claim and planted the gun and cash himself.
The gun, it turned out, was owned by Bryce's father-in-law, according to Blake.
Trooper Dunham declined immediate comment.
'Staggeringly selfish': "This one bothered me," Blake said of the case. "Framing somebody with a plot to kill a police officer -- just to get out of a retail theft? That's staggeringly selfish to me."
Bryce, 36, who has lived in Baltimore as well as southern York County, was supposed to go to trial in the case last week.
But he once again surprised prosecutors on the eve of trial by pleading guilty to making unsworn falsifications to police, making false reports, obstructing the administration of justice and carrying a firearm without a license, Blake said.
It was an open plea, meaning it will be up to presiding Common Pleas Judge Gregory M. Snyder to decide Bryce's punishment, according to Blake.
And the old shoplifting case that led Bryce to concoct his hit-man story? He ended up pleading guilty to retail theft and was sentenced to one to two years in prison.
'Coward': Dymond, 30, now of southern York County, said he's thought long and hard about what he'd say to Bryce, given the chance.
"I'd basically call him a coward," he said. "If you do something wrong, you should be man enough to accept responsibility."
Dymond said he was frightened when he learned police were investigating him.
"It was a very big deal for me for a very long time," he said, and weighed heavy on his mind.
"The police ... told me my (shocked) facial expression was absolutely priceless when they were interrogating me," Dymond recalled.
He said he and Bryce first met and spoke for about 90 minutes in a prison van as both were being transported from Maryland prisons to York County Prison in 2010, then spoke for a couple of hours after that.
New life: Dymond said he's moved on. He's gotten control over his substance-abuse issues and has been clean for several years.
"I've got a good job, a house and a new son, and I went back to school," he said. "I couldn't be more appreciative of what I have today."
On the bright side, Dymond now has one heck of a tale to tell when his buddies are sitting around trading stories.
"You can't really top that story," he said. "I kind of laugh about it: A day in the life of Richard Dymond."
Similar claims: Prosecutors said it's not the first time Bryce has angled for consideration on his own criminal cases by claiming someone asked him to kill for them. He's done it several times, both here in Pennsylvania and in South Carolina, they said.
"When everything came to light about what this guy tried to do to get out of his trial, and the effect it had on so many people, I was personally disgusted," chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday said.
Sunday said his office "diligently" followed Bryce while he was incarcerated out of state, and while he was on the run for a time.
"We followed him all over the East Coast to get him back to Pennsylvania to stand trial for this," Sunday said.
Bryce has a lengthy criminal record in Pennsylvania and Maryland that includes charges of making false statements to police and impersonating a police officer.
Hit ordered on judge? Bryce's claims led police in Cumberland County to file charges against Bryce's former cellmate at the Camp Hill state prison.
Lance Patrick Greenawalt, 46, is awaiting trial on charges including solicitation to commit murder for allegedly asking Bryce to kill three people for him -- including Adams County Common Pleas Judge Michael George, according to charging documents.
Those documents say state police secretly taped conversations between Bryce and Greenawalt that corroborate Bryce's claims.
'Quite a web': But Greenawalt maintains his innocence, according to his Harrisburg attorney, Michael Rentschler.
"He didn't really plan on doing anything like that," Rentschler said. "It's quite a web."
Cumberland County chief deputy prosecutor Matthew Smith did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Dymond said he feels bad for Greenawalt.
Men in prison must put on a tough front for their fellow inmates, he said, and inmates often lie so they don't seem weak. Sometimes, he said, talk is just talk and nothing more.
Bryce's current attorney, York County public defender Jim Rader, declined comment until after Bryce is sentenced on Dec. 17.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.