Journalists Expose Wisconsin Woman’s Alleged “Dark Web” Murder-For-Hire Plot

Kelly Ryan Harper is accused of trying to pay for the intended victim’s death with bitcoin.

February 09, 2021

Kelly Ryan Harper [Dane County Sheriff's Office]

Kelly Ryan Harper [Dane County Sheriff's Office]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A Wisconsin woman is accused of logging on to the dark web and attempting to hire a hitman to kill someone, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says.

According to federal prosecutors, Columbus resident Kelly Ryan Harper, 37, was arrested on Feb. 5 for the alleged murder-for-hire plot, which was first discovered by three journalists.

In a complaint filed by the United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, prosecutors claim Harper’s alleged plan began to unravel in January when the unnamed journalists uncovered messages calling for a man’s death, along with his name, address, cell phone number and photos of his vehicle, among other information.

“[The] target needs to be killed, he is a white 5 foot 5 male, dark brown short hair, blue eyes, weighs 165 pounds,” Harper’s alleged communications read, in part, according to the complaint, the Daily Beast reported.

The complaint, which does not reveal the nature of the relationship between Harper and her alleged target, details how “the murder-for-hire site administrator responded to [the suspect’s] message and requested proof of payment in the form of bitcoin.”

Harper “responded by sharing a screenshot of a bitcoin wallet with a value of approximately $5,633.87,” the complaint states.

The court documents claim that the journalists involved in stopping the alleged plot also had information showing the suspect used bitcoin to pay another murder-for-hire website administrator on October 19, Madison.com reported.

The journalists provided the intended victim and the Sun Prairie police with information about the alleged scheme. The FBI then got involved and agents were able to trace an IP address associated with the bitcoin wallet to Harper, the complaint says.

Investigators who searched Harper’s home “uncovered screenshots from a murder-for-hire dark web site, as well as one of the pictures [Harper] sent to the murder-for-hire site administrator,” the court documents state, noting the suspect allegedly admitted she paid bitcoin “to have [the target] killed.”

Madison’s WKOW reported Harper is currently being held in the Dane County Jail and faces up to 10 years behind bars if she’s found guilty of the federal offense of using the internet to hire someone to commit murder.

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