I have been writing episodes of the excellent true-crime podcast Casefile and as I’ve been rather slack in updating this blog lately, I thought I would write up a little about each case I contribute to the show. These posts will explain how and why I choose each case and the research that goes into writing the stories.
The first one I wrote was Case 86 – the murder of Amy Allwine
Best to listen to it before reading on, as there will be spoilers below and it may not make much sense if you don’t know the story.
I first heard of Amy Allwine before she was murdered. Her name came up as one of the targets in the original hack of the Besa Mafia dark web murder-for-hire site. I wrote briefly about the hit ordered on Amy in my first blog about Besa Mafia on 14 May 2016:
One of the worst hit was the lady who wanted a hit carried out on a woman who “tore my family apart by sleeping with my husband (who then left me) and is stealing clients from my business”, and wanted it to look like an accident. Over two months, she transferred an initial 15 bitcoin, then another 10, then another 4 bitcoin (the transactions are visible on the blockchain), as BesaAdmin dished up excuses for the failure of the murder to take place. Besa was still working on her at the time of the hack. They had relieved her of approximately $13,000.
A couple of weeks later, on 31 May 2016, the FBI visited Amy Allwine to tell her that her name was on a hit-list and that somebody had paid around $13,000 in bitcoin to have her killed. However, Amy could not think of anyone who would want her dead, and the FBI could find no suspects. Amy was murdered on 13 November 2016 and her husband, Stephen was arrested in January 2017. He had pretended to be a disgruntled colleague of Amy’s when writing to the hitman.
I was researching The Darkest Web at the time, and was in regular contact with Yura, the owner of Besa Mafia, who was as shocked as anyone that one of the targets on his site had turned up dead. A large part of The Darkest Web is about dark web murder-for-hire sites and my complicated relationship with Yura, but the murder of Amy came as a shock. I travelled to Cottage Grove, Minnesota, to interview people who knew Amy and the local police, and later to attend the trial of Stephen Allwine.
Obviously the dark web aspect appealed to me, but during the trial I was also struck by the presence and role of the Allwines’ religion, the United Church of God. The local pastor attended the trial and would counsel family members and lead prayer during breaks. Stephen Allwine’s motive for murdering his wife was that he wanted out of marriage, but the strictly fundamentalist religion would expel him if he filed for divorce. Stephen was a lay preacher and that role seemed to be the most important thing in his life, even though he secretly breached the church’s rules by having extramarital affairs and was willing to kill to keep up appearances.
The UCG have gone out of their way to erase Stephen Allwine from the church’s online presence, removing photos, mentions and his sermons from the archives so they can’t even be accessed via the Wayback Machine.
The Darkest Web and the Casefile episode approach the story of Amy Allwine in very different ways, with the book concentrating more on Stephen’s interactions on the dark web and the podcast telling the more straightforward story of a most unusual murder. In both I have left out certain aspects of the story that are inappropriate for now, but may come out one day.
You don’t need to be doing anything illegal to still make it smart to use a VPN. I use IPVanish