UPDATED Facebook Murder-for-hire Suspect Denied Bail
Meredith Lowell sought to kill someone wearing fur, prosecutors say, and still poses threat to the community
Updated 6:24 a.m. Wednesday
The Cleveland Heights woman charged with plotting to hire a hitman to kill a random person wearing fur will be detained pending further hearings.
Judge Kenneth McHargh said during the hearing today in U.S. District Court Cleveland there were no conditions of release for the woman, 27-year-old Meredith Lowell, that would guarantee public safety.
Lowell’s father put his arm around her mother after the decision was made, and they watched as their daughter, who was wearing a dark blue jump suit, was handcuffed and escorted out of the room.
The FBI arrested Lowell Feb. 21 and charged her with solicitation to commit murder. She is accused of corresponding with an undercover agent via Facebook and email about a plan to kill someone 12 years old or older outside of the Coventry Village Library.
The FBI wrote in an affidavit that she sent the e-mails from a computer in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library. The messages contain details about how she'd like the job done and her desire to be caught to spread awareness about an animal rights.
“The amount of money I will pay will be $730. You need to bring a gun that has a silencer on it and that can be easily concealed in your pants pocket or coat. Do not wear anything that even remotely looks like fur. If you do not want to risk the possibility of getting caught with a gun before the job, bring a sharp knife that is at least 4 inches long ... I want the person to be dead in less than 2 minutes (under 2 minutes or 1 minute or less would be better,)" the suspect wrote.
Later she wrote about her disdain for the new Cleveland Aquarium and likened the fish in tanks to babies in bathtubs.
"We as animal rights activists need to put a stronger fight against people who abuse animals," she wrote according to the affidavit.
Duncan Brown, a prosecutor on the case, said Lowell wrote about how living with her family was frustrating for her because they eat meat, wear animal products like wool and leather and have a chair made of fur.
"...until the hit on someone wearing fur is done, I will not be able to get away from my house. So now you know part of the reason why I am going to stay at the location of the hit after the hit is done at the library — partially to get away from my house."
Brown said her messages "reflect an ongoing commitment to have someone killed."
Lowell’s attorney, Walter Lucas, said during the hearing that Lowell had no prior criminal record, no history of violence other than what the FBI is accusing her of and does not abuse drugs or alcohol.
Lucas said he also understands her family has removed items that could be potentially harmful — computers, seven guns owned by other members of her family and the fur chair. He also said that because the FBI says the messages came from the library, if she is monitored at home, she could not pose a threat. Her mother is a homemaker, he added, and could be there with her. He asked that pretrial services review the case to determine if she could be offered bail.
Lucas also said that just before the hearing today, Lowell said she has been harassed by other inmates and she is concerned about her safety.
But Judge McHargh said although the hearing is not meant to decide her guilt or innocence, the persistence of her plan to kill someone wearing fur as stated in the evidence and in her comments after arrest “concerns the court.” And her relationship with her parents as documented in the emails she is accused of writing also is an issue, he said.
Lowell slouched and looked down most of the time, her forearms resting on her legs.