A Spokane Valley woman imprisoned for attempting to hire a hitman to kill her husband lost her appeal on Tuesday.
The Division III Court of Appeals upheld Martie Soderberg’s conviction for attempted first degree murder and solicitation for murder.
Soderberg married her husband, Russell, in 2002 but the marriage quickly soured, according to court documents. Soderberg said her husband became abusive. She filed for a protection order against her husband in 2005, but the request was denied.
In the summer of 2016, Soderberg asked a former co-worker, Dennis Bjerke, to shoot and kill her husband, the court stated in its opinion.
When Bejerke responded with, “(Y)ou’re out of your mind, this is not like you, this is not normal,” Soderberg turned to an acquaintance from high school, the court’s opinion said.
In October 2016, Soderberg contacted Martin Drake on Facebook. At the time, Drake was homeless and sleeping under a picnic table, court documents show.
Soderberg asked Drake to kill her husband and discussed multiple different ideas for how to carry out the murder.
Later that day, Drake called law enforcement and reported Soderberg’s request, court documents show.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives interviewed Drake and asked him to meet with Soderberg again.
Detectives used a cellphone in Drake’s pocket with a microphone attached to send the audio to another cellphone that would record the conversation.
Drake met Soderberg at a Walmart in Spokane Valley and the two got into her Toyota Camry Solara convertible.
Soderberg drove Drake around Hillyard and Spokane Valley for three and a half hours, while they discussed Soderberg’s plan.
Deputies followed the convertible in cars and with a helicopter that circled overhead.
Soderberg said she didn’t want to commit the murder herself because the spouse is always the police’s first suspect. She said on the recording that she had “thought of everything.”
The conversation centered on making specific plans to kill Soderberg’s husband including location, escape routes, buying a gun, alibis for Drake and how to dispose of the murder weapon, court records state.
“There can’t be no links, no connections, no nothing,” Soderberg said. “Okay … originally, I don’t want to walk into a store to buy a gun.”
The $300,000 life-insurance policy that Soderberg planned to collect after her husband’s death was discussed as well.
Soderberg also offered to marry Drake in the future and asked if he could have children, court documents show.
After the meeting in Soderberg’s convertible, deputies decided that Drake should help Soderberg buy a gun.
A few days later, Drake asked Soderberg to meet him and give him $50 to purchase a gun from a private seller.
During the meeting exchange, Soderberg again suggested that Drake kill her husband at his job, court records show. She also showed Drake her husband’s life-insurance policy.
The next day, deputies executed search warrants on her home, convertible and pickup truck. They found the life-insurance policy between the center console and the front passenger seat, court records show.
A warrant for Soderberg’s arrest was filed Nov. 1, 2016. A jury found Soderberg guilty in March 2018, and she was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In her appeal, Soderberg, argued that there was not sufficient evidence for her conviction and that she did not take a “substantial step” toward committing the crime.
Prosecutors argued that Soderberg buying the gun was in fact a “substantial step” and the appeals court concurred in its opinion.
Since her arrest in 2016, Soderberg has faced nearly a dozen other criminal charges related to information discovered while detectives were investigating her for attempting to have her husband killed.
Those charges include welfare fraud, perjury, tampering with a witness, theft, insurance fraud and arson. Soderberg’s trial for the additional charges is set for Feb. 24.
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