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Plea deal in murder-for-hire case

West Virginia woman will serve no more than five years in prison

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A West Virginia woman will serve no more than five years in prison after admitting in U.S. District Court that she tried to hire a hitman to kill a Strasburg woman.

Brenda Lee Swisher, 49, of Augusta, W.Va., pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit a crime of violence -- murder -- Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, according to online court records.

As part of a plea agreement, a count of racketeering -- murder -- will be dismissed. The second charge is because Swisher hired someone to cross state lines to commit the murder, according to a Nov. 18 news release from William J. Ihlenfeld II, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Swisher met in Hampshire County, W.Va., with a West Virginia state trooper posing as a hitman on Nov. 1, and paid him $500 as a down payment for killing Cheryl Kinnie, of Strasburg, according to a criminal complaint filed by West Virginia state police Cpl. J.M. Mills, who is assigned to the Potomac Highlands Drug and Violent Crime Task Force.

Mrs. Kinnie is the wife of Swisher's former boyfriend, Donald Kinnie, the complaint says.
According to court documents, Swisher wanted the contract killer to murder Mrs. Kinnie in the morning after her husband had gone to work. She wanted her killed so Kinnie would be able to pay back money Swisher had lent him, according to court documents.

It says state police in West Virginia were tipped off on Oct. 17 that Swisher was looking for a hitman. She promised to give the undercover officer another $3,000, after he killed Mrs. Kinnie, the complaint says.

According to Swisher's plea agreement, the maximum penalty she will face is five years in prison -- one-half of the maximum term the charge carries. She also faces half of the maximum fine of $250,000, and will be on supervised release for three years.

A sentencing date hasn't been set yet, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas O. Mucklow said in an email Thursday afternoon. He said a presentence report must be completed soon.
Mucklow said Swisher remains free on bond. U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Joel granted her bond on Nov. 10, according to court records. Among the conditions of her bond are surrendering weapons to someone else, staying employed and getting advance approval before leaving Hampshire County.

At that time, Joel denied a government motion to continue to detain Swisher.

"Based upon the evidence presented, the Court finds that Defendant is not a flight risk and does not have significant criminal history indicating that she would pose a danger to the community," his order says.

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