All it took was one missed highway exit to start to unravel a murder-for-hire plot in which a pair of New Mexico ex-convicts allegedly planned to strangle two Vermont men and then castrate them for a convicted killer serving a life sentence in prison.
Mark Staake, 41, and his nephew Tanner D. Ruane, 23, were driving near St. Albans, Vt., when they missed the last exit in the United States and were stopped by federal agents at the Highgate Port on the Canadian border last week. Staake, who had only recently been released from a New Mexico prison, was promptly arrested on an outstanding warrant for violating his probation on an aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon conviction.
His arrest apparently thwarted their alleged plans to kill two St. Albans residents they had staked out for Dana Martin, a 45-year-old convict serving 35 years to life for the strangulation murder of 15-year-old DeAndra Florucci in October 2000. The two were under precise orders to strangle their intended targets with a paisley tie, according to court documents filed in New Mexico, much in the same way Martin dispatched his victim more than a decade ago.
Martin was offering to pay the men $5,000 per killing, according to court documents. Allegedly, Staake was being employed to kill the two and Ruane to castrate them.
But Staake’s arrest Nov. 19 changed everything, authorities said, adding that Ruane contacted Martin at the Southern New Mexico Corrections Facility and Martin called off the plot.
“Dude, this pisses me off so bad,” Ruane said in a phone conversation with Martin later Nov. 19. “Brother! I wanted this [expletive] to go down so bad.”
Martin allegedly told Ruane that the intended victims “don’t know how [expletive] lucky they got” during an exchange intercepted by authorities. Later that day, authorities say, Martin told prison guards about the plot.
Meanwhile, Ruane left the St. Albans area and traveled to the Capital Region, where he stayed the night in an Albany-area hotel, New York State Police investigators said.
The following morning, Ruane traveled to the Pilot Travel Center on Route 7 in Rotterdam, where he was awaiting money. He also had another conversation with Martin and the convict advised him on how to strangle his intended victims and how to tell when they were dead.
Meanwhile, authorities in New Mexico had obtained an arrest warrant against Ruane on two first-degree counts of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
State troopers caught up with Ruane at the truck stop, where he told them he and his uncle had been in Vermont to buy a car.
Upon arresting Ruane, investigators recovered tools and documents associated with the planned murders in his 1983 BMW. Further investigation revealed Staake had been enlisted by Martin while they were lodged at the prison in New Mexico.
The Vermont Department of Corrections said Martin was sent to New Mexico through an interstate compact. “We use the interstate compact as a process for managing inmates with long, extended sentences,” Cullen Bullard, the department’s classification director, told The Associated Press.
Information has been developed by investigators in Vermont, New Mexico, and New York that Martin may be involved in the disappearance of other victims throughout the United States.
New York State Police spokesman Mark Cepiel said the probe into the convoluted case is just beginning, and additional charges are possible.
“The whole investigation is ongoing,” he said. “There’s more to develop from all of this.”
Martin, a career criminal, admitted to binding and suffocating Florucci after they had sex together at his parents’ home in Barre, Vt. Unsure if his victim was dead, he also strangled her with a necktie he removed from his father’s closet and then left her naked body in his family’s Jeep, while a hose pumped exhaust into the cab of the vehicle.
He later dumped her lifeless body in a shallow brook.
Prosecutors indicated Martin knew Florucci, a troubled youth with a history of truancy and drug use, through mutual friends. He became jealous of her when she became involved with his teenage male lover, who stood him up for a meeting that was supposed to take place several days before the murder.
Martin used a mutual acquaintance and the promise of heroin to lure Florucci away from school. The family of the deceased girl later waged an unsuccessful lawsuit against the school district, claiming it was partially responsible for her death for not keeping closer tabs on her.