LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – Three men are behind bars, one here in Lubbock, and two in California, for the murder of a Wisconsin woman.
Authorities say the murder for hire plot stems from a custody battle between Kimberly Smith, 39, and her ex-boyfriend Darren Wold, 41, who was arrested Wednesday night outside of his north Lubbock home. Wold is charged in Wisconsin for being a party to first degree intentional homicide.
The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office launched a nationwide manhunt for the suspects believed to be involved in Smith's murder after she was found bound and stabbed in her Oconomowoc, Wisconsin home. Police say Smith's murder was done at the request of her ex-boyfriend and father of her son Darren Wold.
Kimberly Smith's hands were bound, someone had stabbed her multiple times and for the past seven weeks authorities in Wisconsin have searched for those responsible. DNA found on latex gloves and a knife found in a sewage drain near Smith's house pointed police to the apparent hit man Justin Patrick Welch.
Welch was arrested in Mexico Wednesday near the California border along with another man named Jack Johnson. Police say Johnson is the link connecting Wold to the alleged murderer.
Police are still looking into how Johnson and Welch knew each other. "We know that they have contact. Both electronically and in person and so that's one of the things we're going down to interview them to try to get that connection between the two individuals," says Chief Dave Beguhn with the Oconomowoc Police Department.
Wold admitted to police he was not in Wisconsin at the time of the murder. Captain Greg Stevens with the Lubbock Police Department says detectives received a call the day Smith's body was found. "I believe one of their suspects recently moved here. Yesterday (Wednesday), they contacted us and advised that they did have a murder warrant with a $2 million bond for that suspect," says Stevens.
It is still unclear at this stage of the investigation whether or not money was ever exchanged between any of the suspects. "We're still working through the investigation as far as contacts that have been made between the various parties and also any transmissions that have gone back and forth between them," added Chief Beguhn during Thursday's press conference.
One of Smith's neighbors says she is thankful for the three arrests. "I'm glad for the family that it's finally over with and they can have some closure now," says Annette Graves.
As for Smith's family who is taking care of 4-year-old Jackson, Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimmel who will prosecute this case says they have lived in fear for seven weeks, constantly looking over their shoulders. "They are still grieving and hope that Smith's son can live a normal life," says Schimmel.
Wisconsin investigators are in California to interview Johnson and Welch. Authorities in Lubbock expect those detectives to come to Lubbock so that the extradition process can start. All three men are being held on $2 million bonds each.
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