Woman gets 10 years for hiring hit man to kill husband

A woman who conducted an extensive search for a hit man and made a down payment for the contract killing of her husband was sentenced today to 10 years behind bars despite an emotional plea for mercy.

Johnnie M. Burmeister, 42, pleaded guilty last year to charges of criminal attempt to commit murder, acknowledging she arranged for a man she thought was a hit man to kill her husband, a Phenix City resident, and make it appear to be an accident. Burmeister unwittingly had been exchanging text messages and emails with undercover police officers, providing them photographs and information about where they could find her estranged spouse.

"The remedy is divorce, not murder," Assistant District Attorney LaRae Moore said, urging Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters to sentence Burmeister to 15 years in prison. "The fact that she was willing to pay anything to have him killed is significant.”

Burmeister had agreed to pay $3,000 for the killing and wired a $100 down payment to the officers shortly before she was arrested at her home in north Georgia. Authorities said they had every reason to believe she was intent on killing her husband and collecting his military benefits. They became increasingly alarmed after Burmeister solicited another potential hit man, an ex-con who had been a member of a white supremacist group.

"The guy that she contacted was the real deal," said Sgt. Lance Deaton of the Columbus Police Department. "He was someone who certainly was capable and probably would have been willing to do this had he had the means to. Luckily, he was arrested on a parole violation prior to getting any of those things worked out."

Burmeister, who already has served close to two years, begged Peters for a more lenient sentence, saying she wanted to be out to see her children. “My client has never been in trouble before," said her defense attorney, Moffett Flournoy. "This is a one-time incident that came from this marriage falling apart."

Peters, however, seemed concerned by Burmeister's deliberation in planning the hit over an extended period of time. "It wasn't just spur of the moment," the judge said. "This was a long process.”