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COLUMBIANA CO. Guilty plea in murder conspiracy

Published: Fri, August 24, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.

In making the plea deal, authorities took into consideration the defendant's help in gathering evidence.



LISBON -- A one-time Columbiana County Career Center student faces a prison sentence after admitting helping his former teacher plot to murder a Lisbon woman.

David Wilson, 19, of 11422 Canal St., Hanoverton, pleaded guilty Thursday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, to arson and to four counts of breaking and entering.

The arson and breaking-and-entering offenses, which occurred between December and April, were unrelated to the murder plot.

In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors recommended a sentence of three years for the conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors also recommended a total of 18 months in prison for the arson and breaking-and-entering offenses. The combined maximum sentence for those crimes is five years.

Wilson is to be sentenced for the conspiracy charge Sept. 20 and for the other offenses Sept. 13.

Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble said Wilson's cooperation as an informant in the murder plot was taken into consideration when the plea deal was crafted.

Conspired with teacher: Wilson is accused of conspiring with Thomas Kelm, his former career center teacher, in planning the murder of April Frantz, 21, of Lisbon.

Wilson and Frantz are cousins.

Kelm, 35, of Leetonia, pleaded guilty last week in county common pleas court to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

He is to be sentenced Oct. 18. A plea deal is recommending a six-year sentence.

Authorities originally charged Kelm with four counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

They said Kelm wanted not only Frantz killed, but alsoCatelynn Frantz, the 2-year-old daughter Kelm and April Frantz had together, and April's grandparents, Joe and Cora Frantz.

All four shared a house in Lisbon.

Motive: Gamble said Kelm's motive in wanting the baby killed was to free himself from paying $438 per month in child support for her.

He wanted the rest killed to ensure there were no potential witnesses.

Kelm's plot unraveled when a tipster told the FBI of the crime May 19. Investigators approached Wilson and persuaded him to gather evidence against Kelm.

Authorities said Kelm gave Wilson a handgun with which he was to kill April Frantz.

Kelm also promised to pay Wilson, Gamble said, but he wouldn't say how much.

Kelm was arrested May 25 and Wilson on June 1. Both men remain in jail.


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