Arkansas grandma accused of murder-for-hire plot on daughter’s ex-husband

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — An Arkansas woman is accused of trying to hire a man -- who was actually an FBI agent -- to kill her former son-in-law to prevent him from gaining custody of her granddaughter, authorities said.

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Jeri Dianna Tarter, 69, of Jacksonville, made her initial appearance Monday by video conference, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. According to a criminal complaint that was filed last week and unsealed Monday, Tarter is charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire.

On Oct. 5, Tarter used her cellphone to contact a man she had met 15 years earlier. The man worked as a security guard at a club where her daughter was a bartender, the newspaper reported.

Two days later, Tarter allegedly met the man at a Chili’s restaurant in Little Rock, KTHV reported.

According to the affidavit, Tarter told the man that one of her daughters was engaged in a custody battle with her ex-husband, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

FBI agent Daniel Turner wrote in the arrest warrant that according to the man -- identified only as a “reporting person” -- Tarter said her daughter’s ex-husband was abusive toward her daughter and granddaughter and sold drugs, KTHV reported. According to the man, Tarter told him to either “take care” of her former son-in-law or “find somebody who can.”

When Tarter followed up by voicemail two days later to check on the progress of the alleged plot, the man called Little Rock police, the television station reported.

Turner listened to an Oct. 14 conversation between Tarter and the man, who told the woman he knew someone in Memphis, Tennessee, who “might be sympathetic” to her situation.

Tarter was contacted by the Tennessee man, who was Little Rock FBI agent Rob Bell, the Democrat-Gazette reported. They arranged to meet on Oct. 20 in the parking lot of a Walmart in Jacksonville, the newspaper reported.

According to the affidavit, Tarter gave Bell $100 in cash for driving to Little Rock to meet her. After some discussions, Bell asked Tarter what she wanted him to do.

“Tarter implied that she wanted her former son-in-law to suffer an accident,” the affidavit states. Tarter “clearly implied that ... Bell should kill” the former son-in-law, and make it look like an accident.

The affidavit stated that Tarter told the agent that she was not afraid to go to prison “and would do it herself if she were younger or 80 pounds lighter," the Democrat-Gazette reported.

The newspaper reported that Tarter and Bell discussed ways to kill her son-in-law without it being traced back to her. She allegedly told Bell that “she wanted it done before the coming weekend,” according to the affidavit. They discussed money and Tarter offered $1,500, but Bell said it would cost $2,000 and asked for a $500 advance to buy a new gun, KTHV reported.

Turner wrote that FBI agents watched Tarter drive to an ATM and then return to the Walmart parking lot, where she handed $500 to Bell, the affidavit states.

On Oct. 21, Turner said Tarter sent Bell a text message with her former son-in-law’s address.

A warrant for Tarter’s arrest was issued Oct. 22 and she was arrested the next day, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

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