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Judge sets $50,000 bond in alleged plot

By Kathy Jefcoats

A Hampton mother of five sat quietly Wednesday as she listened to a GBI agent tell a Henry magistrate she promised to pay him $10,000 if he'd kill her husband of less than a year n even allegedly giving him a sawed-off shotgun to use in the plot.

Represented by McDonough attorney Steve Lister, Melissa Elaine Blankinship, 37, heard the alleged plot as outlined by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent John Lang during a probable cause hearing held at the Henry County Jail.

"In a whispered tone, she said, ?I want him dead,'" testified Lang. "She said she was having problems with her husband and she wanted him gone."

Following the hearing, Magistrate Marty Jones found probable cause to bind over charges of solicitation of murder, possession of a sawed-off shotgun and criminal attempt to solicit murder to Henry Superior Court for presentation to a grand jury. He set a $50,000 bond on the condition Blankinship not contact her husband, Johnnie Blankinship, or Lloyd Wall. The alleged victim owns Blankinship Plumbing Co.

Lister questioned Wall's involvement in the case but Jones would not allow any testimony clarifying his role, if any. Lister intimated under cross-examination of Lang that Wall put Blankinship in touch with Lang.

Lister characterized Blankinship as a woman, possibly a victim of domestic violence, in a troubled marriage who was simply looking for help with her husband. But Lang dismissed the assessment.

"I'm not a licensed counselor for marital disputes," said Lang. "She knew why she was meeting with me."

Lang said he met with Blankinship the first time Friday in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Stockbridge.

"I had a conversation with her about the murder of her husband," he said. "We discussed $10,000 contingent upon payment of insurance after his death and she was to provide me with a firearm."

Lang said she also gave him a color photo of her husband and a description of his vehicle n and a description of his "current" girlfriend and her vehicle.

The two met again at 10 p.m. the next day in the same lot. Lang said she returned with her children, and a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun wrapped in plastic in the back of her truck.

"She wanted to know how to make the transfer," said Lang. "I didn't want to do it in front of the children. I told her to take her kids into Wal-Mart and I'd get the gun while they were gone. When they came back, she got in the vehicle with me. She said she got the gun from her father."

Lang said the barrel is shorter than 26 inches as allowed by law so the weapon charge was imposed against her.

Although Lang said the normal procedure in setting up a murder-for-hire plot calls for the suspect to put up good faith money before the killing, he told the court that he took pity on Blankinship.

"She said she was broke and was borrowing money from her parents to feed her children and buy diapers," said Lang. "She couldn't pay her phone bill, water bill. I extended credit to her."

While Lister asked for a reasonable bond, citing Blankinship's lack of criminal record and the fact that the sentence for each of the alleged crimes is one to five years in prison, Assistant State Court Solicitior Annie Deets opposed bond.

"The victim is in fear of her," said Deets.

In setting the conditional bond, Jones also ordered that Blankinship live with her father, Henry Goss, in Forest Park.

It is not known when the case might be presented to the grand jury for possible indictment.