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Form of murder
Contract killing is a form of murder in which one party hires another party (often called a hitman) to kill a targeted person or multiple people. It involves an illegal agreement between two or more parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for some form of payment, monetary or otherwise. Either party may be a person, group, or organization. Contract killing has been associated with organized crime, government conspiracies, and vendettas. For example, in the United States, the gang Murder, Inc. committed hundreds of murders on behalf of the National Crime Syndicate during the 1930s and 1940s.
Contract killing provides the hiring party with the advantage of not having to carry out the actual killing, making it more difficult for law enforcement to connect said party with the murder. The likelihood that authorities will establish that party's guilt for the committed crime, especially due to lack of forensic evidence linked to the contracting party, makes the case more difficult to attribute to the hiring party.
Contract killers may exhibit serial killer traits, but are generally not classified as such because of third-party killing objectives and detached financial and emotional incentives. Nevertheless, there are occasionally individuals that are labeled as both a hitmen and a serial killer.
A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology of 162 attempted or actual contract murders in Australia between 1989 and 2002 indicated that the most common reason for murder-for-hire was insurance policy payouts. The study also found that the average payment for a "hit" was $15,000 with variation from $5,000 up to $30,000 and that the most commonly used weapons were firearms. Contract killings accounted for 2% of murders in Australia during that time period.
Contract killings also make up a relatively similar percentage of all killings elsewhere. For example, they made up about 5% of all murders in Scotland from 1993 to 2002.
Mad Dog Coll leaving court surrounded by police officers, 1931
Ray Ferritto, Italian American hitman and soldier for the Cleveland and Los Angeles crime families, best known for killing Danny Greene; later he became a government witness and testified against the mob
Silas Jayne, Chicago-area stable owner, was convicted in 1973 of hiring hitmen to murder his half-brother George.
Tim Lambesis, vocalist of heavy metal bands As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine and Pyrithion, who attempted to hire someone to murder his wife through a contact at his gym. The alleged "hitman" turned out to be a police officer masquerading as a hitman.
Charlotte Karin Lindström, Swedish waitress/model who attempted to hire a hitman to kill persons testifying against her boyfriend in a drug trial in Australia.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage (better known by his stage name Joe Exotic), an American zoo owner currently serving 22 years on two counts of murder-for-hire (as well as other charges ). He attempted to hire a hitman to kill Carole Baskin, the CEO of Big Cat Rescue (with whom he had a long-running and public feud), but ended up talking to an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a hitman. The case was the primary focus of the 2020 Netflix documentary series Tiger King.
Diana Lovejoy, a technical writer, and her gun instructor Weldon McDavid were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder of Lovejoy's husband in 2016.
Jennifer Pan, a Canadian woman who hired three men to stage a home invasion in order to eliminate her parents in 2010.
Pamela Smart of Derry, New Hampshire, who made national headlines in 1991 for hiring teenage lover Billy Flynn and his friends to murder her husband Gregory Smart.
Wallace Souza, a Brazilian television presenter who was accused of hiring hitmen to murder at least five people in 2009 to increase his programme's ratings.
The Commission, American Mafia ruling body that ordered Siegel's murder in 1947.
The Council, an organized crime outfit and employer of contract killers such as Robert Young aka Willie Sanchez, headed by Nicky Barnes.
Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, an American man who hired people to attack his parents and brother in a home invasion in 2003.
In popular culture
Nothing Personal is a television documentary series that focuses on stories of contract killings.
Fictional cases of contract killing or "hitmen" are depicted in a range of popular fiction genres in the 20th and 21st century, including comic books, films, and video games (e.g., the video game series Hitman, wherein the player controls a hired hitman simply known as Agent 47, and Hotline Miami where the player controls a man named Jacket, who received calls to go to places where the Russian Mafia resides and kill everybody inside.)