Trio facing federal charges in murder-for-hire plot

Moore and Wilkinson (Source: CCDC)
Moore and Wilkinson (Source: CCDC)
Yenawine (Source: Oldham Co. Detention Center)
Yenawine (Source: Oldham Co. Detention Center)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Federal investigators have accused three people in a foiled murder-for-hire plot that was set to be carried out in the Charleston area, court documents state.

Special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have accused 37-year-old Wendy Annette Moore, 39-year-old Aaron Russell Wilkinson, and 38-year-old Samuel Arthur Yenawine of conspiring across state lines to carry out a hit on a woman.

ATF agents said the investigation began last Friday, when Charleston police officers pulled over Wilkinson and his wife, who were traveling in a silver Volkswagen Passat with Kentucky license plates. Police found a .32-caliber revolver and a box of ammo inside the car.

Wilkinson was arrested and charged with driving under suspension, and the couple was taken to the Charleston Police Department.

Once there, Wilkinson told police investigators he was involved in a murder-for-hire plot targeting a Charleston-area woman. Wilkinson said it all began in Louisville, Kentucky, around Mar. 31, when Yenawine approached him and asked if he would join him for a trip down to Nashville, Tennessee, to pick up two kilograms of cocaine.

Wilkinson said he agreed, but while they were driving down, Yenawine told him they weren't actually picking up cocaine in Nashville. Rather, they were going to South Carolina to kill a witness in a RICO case, Wilkinson said he was told. Yenawine told Wilkinson he needed him to "watch his back," according to Wilkinson.

The next day, both men arrived in North Charleston at the Econolodge on Saul White Boulevard, where Wilkinson said Yenawine was met by Moore, Yenawine's ex-wife. Wilkinson said he was sure Yenawine was meeting with Moore because he had seen her photo on Yenawine's phone before, when they were incarcerated together.

Following the meeting, Wilkinson said Yenawine returned with $5,000 in cash. Wilkinson said Yenawine told him he would be paid $5,000 for his participation in the hit, while Wilkinson believed Yenawine was going to make $20,000 to $30,000.

Wilkinson said Yenawine then gave him $4,000 to deposit into his wife's bank account so Yenawine's girlfriend, Rachel Palmer, could accompany her to the bank and withdraw the money back in Kentucky. Wilkinson said he deposited the cash inside the Walmart at the Tanger Outlets.

Later that day, Wilkinson said he and Yenawine went to meet Moore at a residence on Marshall Boulevard, on Sullivan's Island. When they arrived, Wilkinson said Moore was standing outside the residence, and she handed Yenawine a manila envelope.

It was around this time Wilkinson said he realized the hit was not meant for a witness but for a Charleston-area woman. The manila envelope contained various documents, including photographs of the intended target, photographs of her home and vehicles, and maps and a schedule for her and her children.

Wilkinson said Yenawine began to plot how they were going to kill the woman. Wilkinson said Yenawine contemplated breaking into her home and killing her, or following her and approaching her at a stop sign and robbing and killing her.

A short time later, Wilkinson said Yenawine began arguing with his girlfriend, Palmer, about the money Wilkinson had deposited. Yenawine told Wilkinson he was worried Palmer would spend all the money on drugs, so they decided to get back in the car and return to Louisville, according to Wilkinson.

Wilkinson said they left the Lowcountry at 10 p.m. on Apr. 1. When they arrived in Louisville, Wilkinson said Yenawine confronted Palmer and took about $3,000. Wilkinson also said Yenawine told him he had "knocked her out."

Wilkinson said it was at this time they he became concerned for himself and his wife, as Yenawine "was still agitated and wanted to confront Bethany and get the rest of the money from her." Wilkinson said he went and got $500 from his wife and gave it Yenawine.

However, Wilkinson said he still had his concerns, so he told Yenawine he would drive back to South Carolina to carry out the hit. So on Apr. 2, Wilkinson said he and his wife departed Kentucky in the same Passat, which Palmer had previously rented.

Wilkinson told investigators he and his wife rented a room at the Days Inn on West Montague, and also said he had no intentions of harming the woman. Wilkinson said he wanted to distance themselves from Yenawine and come up with a plan.

Investigators then worked to confirm Wilkinson had told them the truth about everything. They confirmed the $4,000 deposit into Bethany's account. They also confirmed a room at the Econolodge had been rented by Moore, and reviewed surveillance video from a Summerville Walmart, which showed Wilkinson and Yenawine purchasing a cell phone. Wilkinson told investigators that Yenawine bought the phone strictly for the purpose of communication with Wilkinson and Moore during the hit.

Investigators also took Wilkinson to Sullivan's Island, where he identified 3029 Marshall Boulevard as the home Yenawine had met Moore.

ATF agents said Wilkinson then consented to making a recorded and monitored phone call to Yenawine.

Agents said during the conversation, Yenawine said, "I have no way to communicate [with Moore] because she ain't got no phone…I told her to get rid of that phone." He continued, "You going to make it work right?"

At that point, Wilkinson asked Yenawine if he could "pop" the target with someone else in the car. "I don't give a (expletive)…it will look better," investigators said he answered.

Yenawine then reminded Wilkinson that the car Palmer rented had to be returned by Sunday, according to court documents, which also state he told Wilkinson to get rid of the gun. When Wilkinson said he would throw the gun in the water, investigators said Yenawine answered, "Yeah, I mean why wouldn't you?"

Yenawine then agreed to send Wilkinson about $300, ATF agents said.

Last Friday, investigators went to 2857 Brownell Avenue on Sullivan's Island to interview Moore. She was arrested three days later and booked at the Charleston County Detention Center.

Yenawine was also arrested on Monday in Kentucky.  He is being held in the Oldham County Detention Center.

Moore is scheduled to appear in federal court on Thursday. Wilkinson already waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

All three suspects are set to be charged with conspiracy to use, and use of interstate commerce facilities, in the commission of murder-for-hire and aiding and abetting. Wilkinson and Yenawine are also set to be charged with felon in possession of a firearm.

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