It's the kind of stuff you see on television - someone trying to hire a hitman to kill someone they want to get rid of. But, it doesn't just happen in TV shows, it has happened in real life. Here are 8 crazy murder-for-hire crimes that happened here in Western New York.
Benito Lendof-Gonzalez - 2016
Benito of Lockport, was convicted of two separate murder-for-hire plots. In May, Benito was in jail on charges that he held his wife, Kayleigh Schmidt, captive in their home and threatened to kill her and himself in a murder-suicide. While he was being held in the Niagara County Jail, Benito tried to hire another inmate to kill Schmidt and her mother to prevent them from testifying against him. He was convicted of two counts of first-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree attempted murder, and one count of criminal solicitation. He received a sentence of 17-years to life in prison for that conviction. Then in September, he plotted to kill again. He was convicted of trying to have a Niagara County corrections officer killed. He received an additional sentence of 2 1/3 to 7-years behind bars for the second murder-for-hire plot. The crazy part is, his conviction for the murder-for-hire plots was recently overturned,
In a 4 to 3 ruling, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier decision by the State Supreme Court Appellate Division Fourth Department that reversed a jury verdict that found Benito Lendof-Gonzalez guilty on three counts of first- and second-degree attempted murder.
Debra Arno - 2015
Debra Arno, 57, of Amherst, pleaded guilty to trying to have her ex-husband and his new wife killed. Police received a tip about the murder-for-hire plot in May of 2015. Lauren Frye, 57, of Buffalo, was also involved in the polt. Police searched her apartment and found three shotguns, pictures of Debra's ex and his wife, a diagram of their house, and their schedule. Debra had offered Lauren $20,000 to kill the couple.
Robin Kalinowski - 2009
On November 10, 2005, Robin shot and killed her husband, who was asleep in bed. Initially, believing the incident to be an accident, she was not convicted. After a two-year investigation, Robin was charged with her husband's murder. She went to trial, but on October 1, 2008, a mistrial was declared. After a second trial in Erie County, she was convicted and sentenced to 25 year-to-life in prison. In 2009, Robin conspired with a hitman, who was really an undercover officer, to have a key prosecution witness killed. She was convicted and sentenced to six to 12 years behind bars, but it did not add any additional time to her sentence.
Anthony Pignataro - 1999
With one death already under his death, Dr. Pignataro, a WNY plastic surgeon, tried to kill his wife. He was convicted of killing a patient, Sarah Smith from Depew, during a procedure. Upon his release from jail, he tried to kill his wife Deborah with arsenic. He then tried to set up a murder-for-hire plot against a witness from the Erie County Holding Center. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Randall Knight and Cheryl Gasper - 1994
Randall, who was from Ohio, was convicted of fatally stabbing Andie Gasper and sentenced to 24-years in prison. He was initially acquitted in Cattaraugus County Court. But a federal case was opened 24 years later and was found guilty. He conspired with Andie's wife, Cheryl Gasper, to kill the man for $100,000 in life insurance. Cheryl Gasper pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Anthony Gugino and Peter C. Gugino - 1993
The father and son duo from Buffalo concocted a murder-for-hire plot after Anthony had already committed a horrific crime. At the time, he was behind bars, the alleged murderer and rapist of 13-year-old Jennifer Dominiak. The target of their ire was Robert Rawley, a man who helped him dump the teen's body. Peter met with a hitman, who was actually an undercover officer, to set the plan in motion. He offered $1,500, which the elder Gugino was financing. Peter pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one to three years in prison. Anthony was found guilty of the rape and murder of Jennifer and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
Richard Matt and David Telstar - 1991
David, a wealthy California man, ended up in the Erie County Holding Center for allegedly embezzling $1.6 from his ex-wife. Once he was released from the Holding Center, he bailed out Richard. He then tried to hire Richard to kill his ex-wife Desiree Telstar, and her parents, Stanley Sheinbaum and Betty Warner Sheinbaum. Her mother was the daughter of Harry Warner, one of the founders of Warner Brothers studio. Instead of killing the targets, Richard turned David into police. David pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and received a 5-year prison sentence.
Ronald, 24, and Raymond, 29, along with two other men, were accused of plotting to murder two narcotics detectives, Chief Tuttolomondo and Capt. Kevin Caffery, who worked for the Erie County Sheriff's Department. Ronald was upset after being arrested twice, once on July 1 and again on September 15, according to Chief Tuttolomondo,
The problem started Sept 15, the day after they arrested him the second time. We started receiving threatening telephone calls but figured they were just cranks. But over the weekend, undercover men received information that made us think maybe there was more to it.
Ronald planned to give one of his co-conspirators a 357‐caliber Magnum to use to kill the detectives. Chief Tuttolomondo said,
They were going to wait for us outside our homes until we came home, and then kill us as we got out of our cars, or they were going to get us on the way out of our homes.