November 26, 2012

Man in custody in murder-for-hire plot in Vt.

The Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A New Mexico man awaits extradition from New York in what authorities describe as a murder-for-hire plot that unraveled after he and his uncle got lost and found themselves inadvertently at a border crossing to Canada.

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A photo released by the Vermont State Police, shows 41-year-old Mark Staake in a booking photo. Staake was arrested by Vermont police on probation violation charges Nov. 19 at the Highgate Springs border crossing. Police say they're just learning the details of what's being called a murder for hire plot involving two New Mexico men, one of whom had befriended a Vermont man serving a life sentence in a New Mexico prison for killing a Barre, Vt., girl in 2000. (AP Photo/ Vermont State Police)

Tanner D. Ruane, 23, is being held without bail in New York state after his Nov. 20 arrest in Rotterdam, N.Y. Police didn't say who they believe had hired him to kill two people in St. Albans, Vt.

Ruane's traveling companion, his 41-year-old uncle Mark Staake, was arrested the day before Ruane at the Highgate Springs, Vt., border crossing after they got lost, New York State Police spokesman Mark Cepiel said. The Highgate Springs crossing is several miles north of St. Albans at the northern end of Interstate 89.

Police say they found "tools and documents" associated with the alleged murder plot inside the car Ruane had been driving. They would not say if the plot was close to being carried out, nor would identify the two people they say were targeted.

Vermont State Police wouldn't comment on details of investigations by other agencies.

Staake is being held without bail in Vermont on fugitive from justice charges pending extradition to New Mexico. New York State Police said in a statement that the charges stem from violation of a felony probation for aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon issued in New Mexico.

New York State Police said Staake recently was released from the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces where he had befriended Dana Martin, 45, who is serving two life sentences for the 2000 killing of 15-year-old Deandra Florucci in Barre, Vt.

Martin pleaded guilty in 2001 to charges he suffocated and strangled the girl and then dumped her body off a bridge in a nearby town. He is eligible for parole in about 2036.

The New York statement said Martin may have been linked to a number of other killings across the country, but Vermont police who arrested him in 2000 said there was no evidence linking him to other killings.

New York State Police say Ruane told police he and Staake had traveled to Vermont to buy a car.

On Nov. 20, New Mexico State Police alerted their New York colleagues Ruane might be in the Albany area.

Ruane was arrested at a truck stop in Rotterdam, N.Y.

New Mexico police forwarded to New York a warrant for Ruane on two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is being held at the Schenectady County Jail without bail. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

The Vermont Department of Corrections said Martin was sent to New Mexico through an interstate compact. "We use the interstate compact as a process for managing inmates with long, extended sentences," said Cullen Bullard, the department's classification director.

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