Murder-for-Hire Plot Trial Begins

Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, December 07, 2017

Newport — The attorney for a 63-year-old Plainfield man accused of participating in a murder-for-hire plot targeting his ex-wife told jurors on Wednesday he was “set up” by the main prosecution witness.

But a prosecutor in opening statements said the evidence would show defendant Maurice Temple was in favor of killing his ex-wife, Jean Temple, as long as he didn’t get caught.

The main prosecution witness, Mark Horne, was cooperating with police, and Jean Temple, the postmaster in Plainfield, was never physically attacked.

Maurice Temple is charged with criminal solicitation of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempt to commit murder. He was arrested, along with his mother, Pauline Chase, in July after Horne agreed to secretly record police-authorized phone and video conversations. Chase, 83, faced the same charges until she was found mentally incompetent to stand trial last week and the case against her was dismissed.

Both defense attorney Donna Brown and Assistant Sullivan County Attorney Justin Hersh, the prosecutor, used portions of the recordings to bolster their opening statements to jurors on Wednesday.

Brown said Horne orchestrated the case against Temple when he was told by Jean Temple at a retirement party for the Plainfield fire chief on June 25 that Maurice Temple had been arrested two days earlier for failing to pay his ex-wife attorney fees in their ongoing divorce settlement dispute.

“This was not a conspiracy (to commit murder),” Brown said. “There was a setup and two people were behind it. And those two people were Mark Horne and Jean Temple. They were kindred spirits in their dislike and hatred of Maurice Temple.”

Brown said Horne immediately called Chase (when he learned of Temple’s arrest), whom has he has known for years and previously had purchased property from.

“He knew she would be upset. He was going to get her riled up. Push her buttons,” Brown said.

It was in that conversation that Chase allegedly said Jean Temple “needed to go down the river.”

That conversation wasn’t recorded.

Horne took that statement to police, who started an investigation. With approval by the Attorney General, Horne was asked to record subsequent phone conversations between himself and Chase beginning July 3.

“This was the start of the setup by Mark Horne,” Brown said.

Hersh called Horne courageous for taking his concern about what might happen to Jean Temple to the police.

If Maurice Temple was not in favor of killing his ex-wife, Hersh said, Temple could easily have said so when Horne asked more than once if he wanted to get rid of her.

“Mr. Temple did not say no. He did not say ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ He didn’t say ‘Get out of my house.’ What does he do? He asks Mr. Horne (if he is wearing) a wire,” Hersh told jurors about the video recording they would later see.

Telling Horne he is afraid of being set up and going back to jail, Temple again asked Horne about a wire, as does Chase in another part of a recording played in court. Horne’s video recording device was in his phone.

“There is no concern for (Jean Temple’s) death,” Hersh said. “(Maurice Temple) doesn’t care about having that conversation. He doesn’t want to get caught. He asked Mr. Horne how did he plan to do it.”

Hersh also pointed to Temple’s statement of being worried about police “finding a body bag and it’s tied to him” as evidence that getting caught was his only concern.

In another segment of the July 13 video recording that was played in court, Temple expresses some reservations; Chase is nonplussed.

“What are you, nuts?” she says to her son. “First you are for it and now ... .”

“Let’s go, Maurice. I want to be rid of her and so do you,” Chase says.

“I don’t want to go to prison,” Temple replies.

But Brown in her opening statement pointed out to jurors that comments made by Chase in recorded phone conversations with Horne — including “Maurice isn’t happy about this, that is all I can say” — indicate Temple was always reluctant about the plot. In another instance, when Horne asks if Temple is “OK with this,” Chase replies, “He isn’t really.”

“Phone calls show Mark Horne has to work at this. Horne knows Maurice Temple wants no part of this,” Brown said. “These recordings will show my client was set up.”

She also told jurors that Horne was still mad at Temple because when Horne wanted to expand his Route 12A horse business in 2013 by buying adjoining property where Temple stored his equipment for his excavating business, Temple said no.

“A short time after that, the horse business failed,” Brown said.

New Hampshire State Police Sgt. Mark Koehler was on the witness stand on Wednesday when some of the phone conversations and a video recording were played to jurors.

He explained how he hooked up the equipment when the phone conversations between Horne and Chase were recorded and he identified the voices on the recordings for jurors.

Hersh also mentioned a $5,000 payment made to Horne by Temple and Chase in another video, which has not been shown to jurors yet.

Jean Temple attended Wednesday’s trial, sitting directly behind the prosecution table in the first row of public seating.

Koehler will return to the stand when the trial continues at 9 a.m. today in Sullivan County Superior Court.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.