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Julia Merfeld, a 21-year-old Michigan woman, is set to be sentenced on July 30 after pleading guilty in June to soliciting the murder of her husband, Jacob.

Recorded footage of Julia Merfeld soliciting an undercover cop posing as a hit man has surfaced on the Internet and has shocked viewers for how calm, cool and collected she is while planning the murder.

“When I first decided to do this … it’s not that we weren’t getting along,” she says on the video. “But … terrible as it sounds, it was easier than divorcing him.

"You know, I didn’t have to worry about the judgment of my family, I didn’t have to worry about breaking his heart, all that stuff like this. It’s, like, how I [could have] a clean getaway.”

Furthermore, Merfeld told the fake hit man he’d be paid $50,000 out of the 27-year-old husband’s $400,000 life insurance policy that she would receive in the case of his death. She said she would pay him in a series of weekly $9,000 installments to avoid suspicion from her bank.





Suspicions of Merfeld's intention to carry out the plans were first raised after she told coworker Carlos Ramos she wanted her husband killed. Ramos originally thought she was joking and hoped the topic would never come up again, he told local ABC affiliate WZZM 13. But when she continued to talk about the plan in more detail, Ramos made the decision to go to the police, who set up the sting with the fake hit man.

Merfeld and the undercover Michigan State Police detective met two times – first to discuss the murder plot and once more so that she could show him directions to her house, a map of the outside, a floor plan and a photograph of her husband.

While Merfeld will reportedly be sentenced to a minimum of six years, her husband and intended victim asked that she get no jail time at all, the sentencing judge said in court at the time of her guilty plea.

Instead, Chief Muskegon County Circuit Judge William C. Marietti set her minimum sentence at six years. The maximum can be anything up to life in prison, depending on Marietti’s decision at Merfeld's sentencing July 30.

Mo. Lottery sales reach $1.14B in 2013 budget year

Tuesday, 09 July 2013 11:09 Published in Local News

   JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Lottery sales rose to another record high during the 2013 budget year.

   The Lottery says it sold $1.14 billion of tickets during the fiscal year that ended June 30. That's up 4 percent from the previous year's total of $1.1 billion.

   Lottery sales have set new high marks each of the past three years.

   Executive Director May Scheve Reardon attributes the increased sales to a new advertising campaign and several large Powerball jackpots. She also cites the beginning of a new loyalty program and strong sales in several other Lottery games.

   The Lottery awarded more than $1 billion of prizes and transferred $289 million to education last year.

 

Cleveland Captives Break Silence and Give Thanks

Tuesday, 09 July 2013 07:30 Published in National News

 A message of thanks. The three young Cleveland women recovered two months ago after being held captive for nearly a decade have posted a video on YouTube.





 

Amanda Berry says, "Everyone who has been there to support us, it's been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness. I'm getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely."

Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight all appear on the video.   They say financial support from the public is allowing them to restart their lives. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, the three women held against their will for a decade locked in a Cleveland, Ohio, home, posted a video on YouTube early this morning to offer thanks for the support they have received trying to rebuild their lives.

Each of the women appeared separately in the 3-minute, 33-second video, with Berry and Knight each making a brief statement, while DeJesus answered questions from someone off camera, followed by her father, Felix DeJesus, and then her mother, Nancy Ruiz.

Berry appears calm and happy in the video, which was filmed July 2. She smiles frequently, as she offers thanks not only for those who have helped her, but to those who have respected the three women's request for privacy.

"First and foremost, I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family, my friends," she says. "It's been unbelievable. I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness. I am getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely." 

In response to a question of what she wants to say, DeJesus briefly answers that she would like to say thank you, before her father and then her mother speak at greater length.

Ruiz reflected on the love and support of neighbors, such as those who played such a big role in helping the three young women finally escape their captivity.

"Parents in general that do have a loved one missing, please do me one big favor. Count on your neighbors. Don't be afraid to ask for the help because help is available," she said.

Knight, who appears last, expresses confidence for the future and talks about how her faith in God has helped her.

"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my held high and my feet firmly on the ground," she says. "Walking hand-in-hand with my best friend, I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation."

Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Knight, said in a statement about the video that the three young women wanted to "say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world."

"People are recognizing them now as they go about in public, so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages," Joseph said. "It was their decision to relay their thanks in this way to all of the many people who have offered support to them, for which they are extremely grateful."

James Wooley, attorney for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, said the release of the video does not mean that the three women will begin making public appearances or granting interviews any time soon.

"It is important for everyone, especially the media, to understand that the three women still have a strong desire for privacy," Wooley said. "They do not want to talk about their ordeal with the media or anyone else. This cannot be stated strongly enough."

Ariel Castro, 52, the man accused of kidnapping the three women and keeping them inside his home, has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment that includes charges of kidnapping and rape.

Castro, a former school bus driver, also is also accused of the aggravated murder of a fetus for allegedly forcibly causing an abortion in one of his victims that he is accused of impregnating, a charge that could potentially carry the death penalty. 

 

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