COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. - A Cottage Grove man was convicted late Wednesday, Jan. 31, of first-degree murder in the 2016 death of his wife.
After trying to hire a hit man online, Stephen Allwine drugged Amy Allwine before shooting her in the head and posing her body to suggest she had committed suicide, prosecutors said.
Following a weeklong trial in Stillwater, a Washington County District Court jury deliberated for eight hours before returning a guilty verdict Wednesday night. At his sentencing on Friday, the 44-year-old Allwine is expected to receive life in prison, which is the mandatory sentence in first-degree murder cases, said Fred Fink, the Washington County prosecutor who tried the case.
"We believe the jury did the right thing," Fink said. "They had a lot of pieces of evidence to go through. ... I've been doing this 43 years and it's probably the most complex case I've ever tried."
The evidence against Allwine included a trail of digital clues that connected him to a failed murder-for-hire plot hatched on the "dark web," a hidden portion of the internet associated with crime.
On the evening of Nov. 13, 2016, Cottage Grove police responded to a 911 call placed by Stephen Allwine at his home in the 7600 block of 110th Street South, where they found the body of 43-year-old Amy Allwine. She had been shot once in the head.
Although a 9 mm handgun was found near the body, no blood spatter or gunpowder on her hands, suggesting to investigators that the scene had been staged to look like a suicide.
After a two-month investigation, Stephen Allwine was arrested in March 2017 and charged with Amy Allwine's murder. Prosecutors alleged that Stephen Allwine was having at least two extramarital affairs. Rather than divorce his wife and jeopardize his position at a local church, he decided to have her killed.
Using the the handle "dogdaygod," Stephen Allwine used the dark web to seek out "Besa Mafia," a website associated with hired murders and assaults, to arrange for his wife's murder, prosecutors said. These plans fell through.
The same online handle was used several months later to inquire about buying the drug scopolamine with the digital currency bitcoin. Excessive levels of scopolamine were found in Amy Allwine's body.
Investigators later connected Stephen Allwine to dogdaygod by a 35-character bitcoin address used on one of Allwine's smartphones.