STILLWATER, Minnesota — A preacher who frequently trawled the adultery website Ashley Madison, tried to hire a hitman to kill his wife but ended up offing her himself in an attempt to avoid the disgrace of a divorce in his community, prosecutors say.
The first-degree murder trial of Stephen Allwine, 44, began this week in the January 2017 shooting death of his wife, Amy, at their Cottage Grove home that authorities say he clumsily tried to stage to look like a suicide.
“Who would want to do this?” Assistant Washington County Attorney Jamie Kreuser said, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “Someone who didn’t want to be married to her anymore.”
Investigators say Allwine had carried on at least three affairs with women he met through Ashley Madison, despite his position as a deacon and elder in the conservative United Church of God.
But instead of seeking a divorce, which he believed would have brought him shame in his church, he turned to the “dark web” to hire a hitman, prosecutors said.
Allwine He allegedly forked over a $6,000 downpayment using a cryptocurrency for the hit on Amy, which he said needed to look like an accident.
Authorities say the hitman kept asking for money, however, and never did the job.
That left a desperate Allwine to act on his own. Prosecutors say he drugged his wife with the anti-nausea drug scopolamine, and then shot her in the head. He then called 911 to report a suicide.
But when investigators found no gunpowder on the woman’s hands and the firearm cradled in her left hand, despite her being right-handed, they ruled out suicide and began to look at Stephen.
They later discovered the bitcoin code he used to pay for the hit and traced it to his iPhone.
His attorneys argued there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence to link him to the crime and said the details of the prosecution’s argument seemed fanciful.
“Sounds like an amazing story,” defense attorney Kevin DeVore said. “Sounds like a TV show or a movie.”