Police charged a Cottage Grove, Minn. man with second-degree intentional murder for killing his wife, linking him to a Dark Web plot to pay for her murder before poisoning and shooting her and staging the death as a suicide, according to the South Washington County Bulletin in Cottage Grove, Minn.
Bail was set at $1 million for Stephen Carl Allwine, 43, who was held in jail after he appeared Wednesday in Washington County District Court. District Court Judge Susan Miles set the $1 million bail without conditions or $500,000 with condition that he wear a GPS tracking device, remain in Minnesota and only have supervised contact with his 9-year-old son.
The criminal division chief for the county attorney’s office, Fred Fink, requested a $2 million bail, saying Allwine is a flight risk since he has the funds to flee and liquidated silver coins to cash. Fink said Allwine’s actions indicate a level of sophistication as well as his determination to kill his wife.
Cottage Grove police, the FBI and the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) conducted deep digital forensic testing as they explored murder-for-hire jobs paid for in virtual currency on the Dark Web.
Sgt. Randy McAlister of the Cottage Grove police said the Dark Web distinguishes the case from more common murder cases. He said the Internet factor has required more time for the investigation.
McAlister said as many as five Cottage Grove detectives spent more than two months working on the case, putting aside other case work. The detectives worked full time on the case for the first month, he said. The case was the first Dark Web related murder the department has dealt with.
Allwine’s attorney, Kevin DeVore, said he has not had a chance to review the complaint with his client in detail.
According to the criminal complaint, police on Nov. 13 responded to a report of a gunshot wound at Allwine’s home. Allwine told police his wife was in the bedroom and he was unsure of her injuries. He said a 9-mm handgun was used. Police found the wife, Amy Allwine, on the bedroom floor in a pool of blood with a head gunshot wound. The gun was near her left arm and one shell casing was near her right foot.
Allwine told the police he had asked his in-laws to get his son just before 2 p.m. so he could get some work done in his basement office. He said his wife complained of dizziness that afternoon. He said he last saw his wife around 5 p.m. when she told him she did not need to be checked on further.
Allwine said he left the home around 5:30 p.m. to get his son and go to a gym. He first said he stopped to get fuel on his way to get his son when he remembered he forgot the boy’s shorts. After getting his son, they stopped for dinner at a restaurant instead of going to the gym, after which they returned home.
Police were told by Allwine’s employers that he did not report any work activity that afternoon.
The woman’s parents came to the home and told police their daughter was right-handed, which police said was not consistent with the way the gun was found or with a self-inflicted wound in which a bullet exited the right side of her head.
The complaint stated that when Sgt. McAlister arrived at the scene, he found the wood floor outside the bedroom was clean while the bedroom carpet was dirty and the floor had residue.
Police said Allwine later slightly changed his account of what happened. He did not mention, as he did in his first statement, that he forgot his son’s shorts. He said they went to dinner since he realized they did not have time to get to the gym. He said he told the boy to get ready for bed, then went to see his wife lying on the floor and called the police.
Allwine said the couple had installed an alarm system after his wife received threats, but they became lax in setting the alarm. Earlier in 2016, Allwine said the FBI contacted the Cottage Grove police about Dark Web activity that indicated someone was trying to hire someone to kill his wife.
Allwine denied knowing about the Dark Web. Police, however, examined his computer and found he used the Dark Web as early as 2014.
Police also said Allwine applied for and received a firearm purchase permit and that he bought the gun in 2016 that was found next to the woman’s body.
Two days after her death, police searched the home and discovered sophisticated computer equipment and cell phones that were not discovered the day of the 911 call. No activity was found at the front door from the home’s video and security system prior to Amy Allwine being found dead. The video doorbell was connected to a cell phone found in the basement.
One detective found a bitcoin application on the phone to pay or trade bitcoin.
Police discovered gunshot residue on Stephen Allwine’s right hand from a sample he gave to police following the death.
Police met with the BCA to discuss information from the FBI indicating someone in February 2016 using the username “dogdaygod” contacted “Besa Mafia,” a Dark Web site for soliciting assaults and murder for hire. The user asked about the cost of having Amy Allwine murdered and to make it look like an auto accident.
On Feb. 16, cookies from bitcoin websites were installed on Stephen Allwine’s cell phone, according to a police report.
The dogdaygood user also posted information about a trip Amy Allwine planned to Moline, Ill. for a dog training competition. She operated a dog training business.
The dogdaygood user contacted Besa Mafia in March about two attempts to murder Amy Allwine, neither of which transpired.
The username dogdaygod opened an account in May on another Dark Web site to ask about buying scopolamine, a drug used to treat nausea following surgery, and to pay using bitcoin.
In July, anonymous emails from an anonymous Dark Web address were sent to Amy Allwine threatening her and her relatives. The messages had detailed information on her family and encouraged her to kill herself.
Allwine is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 13.
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