STILLWATER, Minn. - A Washington County grand jury indicted a Cottage Grove man for premeditated first-degree murder in his wife's death last year.
The indictment announced Friday elevated the charge and potential sentence against Stephen Carl Allwine, 44, who was charged earlier this year with second-degree murder in connection with his wife Amy's Nov. 13, 2016, death. A premeditated murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release.
Prosecutors allege Allwine killed his 44-year-old wife in their 110th Street home and attempted to stage her death as a suicide following a failed murder-for-hire plot against her. Amy Allwine was found in their home with a gunshot wound to the head, police said.
Investigators allege that in months preceding the death Stephen Allwine made contacts in the Dark Web - an area of the internet where users often are anonymous and involved in criminal activity - in connection with the murder plot and an inquiry into the purchase of a drug found in an unusually high concentration in his wife's body after her death, according to court records.
Allwine appeared in Washington County District Court Friday on the premeditated murder charge. District Judge B. William Ekstrum set Allwine's unconditional bail at $2 million and conditional bail at $1 million.
"We have great faith in the grand jury process and those people serving on the grand jury exercising their civic responsibility," Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said.
Allwine was first arrested Jan. 31, following a complex, months-long investigation by local, state and federal authorities.
Prosecutors allege that in early 2016, Allwine turned to the Dark Web in an attempt to have his wife killed in a plot he planned to pay for with the virtual currency called bitcoin. Police and prosecutors allege that when two plots fell through, Allwine poisoned his wife, shot her and staged her death in the couple's bedroom.
Authorities allegedly uncovered evidence on Allwine's sophisticated computer equipment and cellphones of inquiries into the use of bitcoins and the purchase of scopolamine. That drug was found in his wife's body at a level 45 times higher than a prescribed dose, according to a medical examiner. She had no prescription.
Allwine posted bail after his initial arrest but was arrested again after police say he tried to contact the couple's 9-year-old son, in violation of Allwine's release terms. He then posted bail a second time before a warrant was issued on the indictment.