Unreturned jailhouse letters sent to Justin Bieber prompted a convicted murderer from Vermont to allegedly hire a pair of New Mexico men to kill four people, including the Canadian pop star and his bodyguard.
State police said they recovered drawings and other documents relating to the conspiracy to kill the singer inside a 1983 BMW being driven by Tanner D. Ruane, 23, before his arrest at the Pilot Travel Center on Route 7 in Rotterdam. Troopers said they found the documents — including the identities of the intended victims — and weapons intended to carry out the grisly murders after a search warrant was executed on the vehicle last month.
Ruane and his uncle, 41-year-old Mark Staake, were allegedly carrying out the grisly murders at the behest of Dana Martin, a 45-year-old convict serving up to life in prison in New Mexico for killing a Vermont teen in 2000. Martin, who later described himself as an avid Bieber fan, apparently came up with the plot after the singer failed to return his frequent jailhouse letters.
View criminal complaint
To view the criminal complaint filed against Mark A. Staake in District Court, Dona Ana County, State of New Mexico, click here.
Martin confessed to being infatuated with Bieber, even tattooing the pop star’s face on his lower leg. But when his letters went unanswered, Martin felt jilted.
“This perceived slight made Mr. Martin upset and that, coupled with Mr. Martin’s perception of being a ‘nobody’ in prison, led him to begin plotting the kidnap and murder of [Bieber],” Clinton Norris, an agent with the Investigations Bureau of the New Mexico State Police, stated in court documents. “In the end, what Mr. Martin stated he was seeking was a measure of notoriety so that there would be people outside of prison who would know who he was.”
Norris said Martin, who was incarcerated at the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility, concocted the plot shortly before Staake was to be released in October. Once on the outside, Norris said, Staake enlisted Ruane to join him on a killing spree that would start with the brutal castration of a pair of Vermont men and end with the killing of Bieber — the ultimate target — while the teen idol was on tour in New York City.
The whole plan went awry Nov. 19, police said, when a wrong turn led Ruane and Staake to cross the Canadian border near St. Albans, Vt. When they tried to return to the United States, they were stopped by federal agents at the Highgate Port and detained, according to police.
Staake was promptly arrested on an outstanding warrant accusing him of violating his probation on a conviction for aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon, police said, but Ruane was released and drove to the Albany area, where he contacted Martin.
Shortly after learning of Staake’s arrest, Norris said Martin confessed the details of his plot to corrections officers in New Mexico. State troopers in New York caught up with Ruane and searched his vehicle, saying they uncovered the events Martin had ordered from his jail cell in the days before Staake was released.
Martin, a career criminal, was sentenced to life in prison after he admitted to binding and suffocating 15-year-old DeAndra Florucci at his parents’ home in Barre, Vt.
He was among the hundreds of convicts serving time at contracted prisons in other states due to Vermont’s limited inmate capacity.
Martin later told investigators he was able to solicit Staake into the murder-for-hire plot by convincing him of his ties in Vermont and to Chinese gangs, according to a the criminal complaint. He allegedly told Staake he could provide a safe house for the would-be killers at the historic Lottery Hill Farm in Woodstock, Vt., which he claimed his family owned.
He also reportedly claimed he had ties within a Chinese gang in New York, which sanctioned the murder of Bieber, and advised Staake that he and his nephew could make inroads into the notorious Hip Sing Association if they carried out the killings.
Martin allegedly gave precise orders to first strangle their two intended targets in Vermont with a paisley tie, much in the same way he dispatched with his victim more than a decade ago. He also offered to pay the men $5,000 per killing, according to court documents, or $2,500 per testicle.
Staake was apparently being employed to kill the two, while Ruane was prepared to remove their genitalia with a pair of hedge clippers and stow them somewhere in the car.
Once the first two victims were killed, investigators said Ruane and Staake would be in good position to reach New York City in time for Bieber’s appearance at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28. The two were asked to kill Bieber’s bodyguard and then abduct the singer so he could also be murdered, according to court documents.
Staake is charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the criminal complaint filed in New Mexico. Ruane is charged with the same crimes and was extradited from New York on Dec. 9.
It’s unclear how close the two New Mexico men would have come to carrying out Martin’s alleged plot, but Scooter Braun, Bieber’s agent, was confident the singer was safe.
“We take every precaution to protect and insure the safety of Justin and his fans,” Braun said Thursday in an interview with Us Weekly.