LAS CRUCES — An imprisoned man Friday admitted to his role in a plan to strangle and castrate two Vermont men, a gruesome precursor in an ultimate plot to kidnap and murder beleaguered pop singer Justin Bieber.
Dana Martin, 46, pleaded guilty to two counts of soliciting murder, via telephone in the Las Cruces courtroom of state District Judge Darren M. Kugler. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop two related murder conspiracy charges.
Although the two men who allegedly agreed to commit the killings for Martin actually drove to Vermont, authorities say, neither of the targeted men were injured. And authorities later said Bieber, now facing his own legal trouble, was never in immediate danger.
At Friday's sentencing, Kugler added nine years to Martin's lengthy prison term. He is serving two life sentences for the 2000 murder and rape of a teenage girl in Vermont.
That's the crime that landed Martin in the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility outside Las Cruces in 2012. He has since been transferred to another state facility.
But while he was there, Martin told investigators, he persuaded a fellow inmate and that man's nephew to execute the grisly murders, according to court filings.
Martin told New Mexico State Police he ultimately targeted the singer because he was tired of being a “nobody” and irked by Bieber not answering his fan mail, court documents state. He reportedly has an elaborate Bieber tattoo on his lower leg.
“I was all caught up in Bieber fever,” Martin said during a phone conversation from prison to one of the would-be killers, Albuquerque's KRQE-TV reported.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacinto Palomino said recently Martin is a pedophile. Vermont authorities reportedly said Martin killed the teen girl there because he was jealous — she was somehow involved with Martin's lover, a teenage boy.
Mark Staake, 42, and his 24-year-old nephew Tanner Ruane, both of Albuquerque, allegedly set out in November 2012 to execute Martin's plan.
It was to start in Vermont with the killing and mutilation of two men. Martin, according to court documents, had instructed Staake and Ruane to strangle the men with paisley neckties — Martin's trademark — then castrate them with garden shears.
The charges Martine admitted to Friday stemmed from that part of the murder-for-hire plot, not for his alleged plan to kill Bieber.
From there, Staake and Ruane were to kill Bieber and a bodyguard, officials said. There were not explicit instructions on how to kill the singer. The duo timed their east coast trip around a concert Bieber had scheduled in New York City.
But the murderous scheme unraveled when Staake and Ruane missed an exit, inadvertently driving into Canada. Border Patrol agents arrested Staake for violating his probation, as he was not supposed to leave New Mexico.
New York police eventually arrested Ruane, and authorities believe Martin informed police of the foiled plan because he sought notoriety.
Staake and Ruane are in custody at the Doña Ana County Detention Center. Both have trial dates set for Feb. 17, according to online court records.
Martin told investigators that he was able to convince Staake to commit the murders because he is “a very good manipulator.”
Part of that manipulation, according to court filings, included Martin saying he had access to “large amounts of money,” ties to a large, historic Vermont home that Staake and Ruane could use as a hideout and connections in a Chinese gang based in New York — as evidenced solely by the Asian-style tattoos on his body.
Martin reportedly told Staake that the Chinese gang sanctioned the murders, which would put Staake and Ruane in good standing with the gang.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report