Crime

Whatcom inmate hatched murder-for-hire plot to kill key trial witness, charges say

Kurt Ebe, then 60, of Custer, appears in court in July 2016 on charges of dumping gasoline on a woman and lighting a match. He was sentenced Thursday in Whatcom County Superior Court to 6¼ years in prison, with 1½ years probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit controlled substance homicide and second-degree assault.
Kurt Ebe, then 60, of Custer, appears in court in July 2016 on charges of dumping gasoline on a woman and lighting a match. He was sentenced Thursday in Whatcom County Superior Court to 6¼ years in prison, with 1½ years probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit controlled substance homicide and second-degree assault. chutton@bhamherald.com

A Custer man in the Whatcom County Jail offered another inmate $25,000 to kill a woman by making her overdose on potent drugs, according to attempted murder charges filed Thursday, Oct. 27.

Kurt Joseph Ebe, 60, has been in jail for three months on charges of assaulting a woman, 54, when he accused her of stealing a rug that had sentimental value to him in July. He poured gasoline on a tent she’d been staying in, and lit a match, at his property in the 2300 block of Birch Bay-Lynden Road, according to charging papers. The woman smelled strongly of gas but she was not hurt.

Ebe was charged with assault in the second degree, with bail set at $250,000.

Earlier this month, an inmate in his cell block sent a note asking to talk with detectives. He told them Ebe feared he would be convicted and go to prison for a long time, which made him afraid because of his age. Ebe thought if the woman died, the charges against him would be dropped. So, according to the informant, Ebe instructed him to give the woman a “hotshot” of heroin mixed with fentanyl, a far more potent synthetic opioid that has been the source of a recent overdose crisis.

Ebe offered $25,000 to kill the woman, the charges say. He recounted to the inmate how he was investigated for a fatal overdose in 2006, but he was charged with drug delivery, not homicide. Ebe told him it was a woman, and she had died at his house on Birch Bay Drive, according to the charges.

Charging papers from a decade ago confirm that a woman, Tara Lynn Smit, 31, died on a couch at Ebe’s home from an overdose. At the time Ebe gave different stories to deputies. But at one point he said she asked him to inject her with the drug, which she had bought the day before. Ebe served two years in prison for drug delivery.

Back behind bars this month, Ebe’s offer changed as the days passed: $5,000 to kill the woman, $5,000 to kill her boyfriend, according to the charges. A judge granted a warrant for the inmate to wear a wire around Ebe, to confirm what he reported.

“That’s ten grand for both of them, you know that right? I’ll need 10 grand for killing these (expletives),” the inmate said on one recording.

“Uh huh, for the two of them,” Ebe’s voice replied. “Five each. It might take me a year to pay you.”

Over the wire, detectives heard Ebe say he wanted the couple dead before Nov. 7, the day of his trial. The sooner the better, he said, but not a day or two before trial, because that would be too suspicious, according to the charges. On the recordings he called the couple “trash,” “worthless,” “like bugs that need to be squished.” He advised the inmate to look them up on Facebook, so he would know what they look like.

“You shouldn’t feel guilty,” Ebe said, on one recording. “You didn’t shoot them. You just left some dope there. They took it, that’s their fault, they’re addicts.”

“You are serious about getting this done?” the man asked.

“Oh, yeah, definitely. I could possibly be looking at 12 to 14 years. If I go to trial and lose, I’m (screwed).”

Once the man was released from jail, he arranged to pick up a weed eater from one of Ebe’s friends – which would serve as collateral for the $10,000. Ebe called him from a recorded jail phone Saturday, Oct. 22, and in code the man told Ebe the murders were done. Ebe replied that he was “happy,” the charges state.

Two days later detectives sat down with Ebe and told him he would be charged with soliciting to commit murder.

“So, nobody is dead,” Ebe replied, the charges say. “I don’t understand.”

A detective outlined the case to him, and Ebe responded that everybody knew that inmate was working with the cops.

“I just went along with him,” Ebe said, according to the charges.

Superior Court Commissioner Martha Gross set Ebe’s bail at $1 million in the new case this week, in addition to the bail from the assault case.

In formal charges made public Thursday, he is accused of one count of solicitation to commit murder in the first degree – for one overarching act of solicitation – though additional counts could be filed later, said Jonathan Richardson, the deputy prosecutor. Richardson declined to speculate about the 2006 overdose case, and whether it could or would be prosecuted now.

Ebe’s record shows five felony convictions over the past 20 years. Four are for heroin and drug possession; the fifth is for felony theft. He kept out of trouble for a few years after his release from prison in 2008.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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