Forsyth inmates among 5 charged in murder-for-hire scheme

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Armed carjacking suspect, associates plotted to kill victim before trial, sheriff says

With his trial date fast approaching, authorities say a Forsyth County inmate hatched a murder-for-hire plot to have a carjacking victim killed before he could testify against him.

Now, the plot has been foiled and five people are charged in the alleged scheme, including two men who were already behind bars, authorities said.

The plot originated with 31-year-old Kwame Abayomi, who allegedly solicited the help of a fellow inmate in his cell block to have the victim killed before the trial, Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman said Tuesday at a news conference.

Fortunately, the suspects weren’t very good at keeping their plans secret or covering their tracks, authorities said.

“This individual took it upon himself to try to eradicate the witness in his case,” Freeman said. “We believe our victim was hours, if not days, from an attempt on his life.”

The investigation into the attempted hit began earlier this month when the sheriff’s office received an anonymous tip about the inmates coordinating with “outside associates” to have the man killed, Freeman told reporters. Authorities said Abayomi arranged the killing with 29-year-old Shelby Fairley, a fellow inmate being held on rape and child molestation charges.

According to detectives, the inmates and three others planned to have the man killed for “the lowly sum” of $6,000.

The victim, who was not identified, had a motorcycle stolen at gunpoint in late 2017 after arranging to sell the vehicle to Abayomi on Craigslist, authorities said. Abayomi was arrested in January 2019 and charged in the armed robbery and carjacking.

The elaborate murder-for-hire scheme, which Abayomi allegedly masterminded, involved both the mother of his children, 30-year-old Claritza Castillo Gomez, and his current girlfriend, 19-year-old Maliyah Franklin, according to investigators.

Both women are accused of facilitating the transaction and both had the victim’s personal information stored on their cellphones at the time of their arrests, Freeman said. Authorities said they found the victim’s address, photo and even his parents’ information on the suspects’ phones.

The alleged hitman hired to carry out the plot was identified as 30-year-old Quinton Ingram of Atlanta. Investigators said Ingram is Fairley’s brother and that he coordinated with both Gomez and Franklin to kill the man.

According to the sheriff, Ingram wasn’t the first person hired to carry out the crime, however. Authorities said Gomez had already paid someone else to commit the killing, but that person took the money and disappeared.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

All five suspects plotted the man’s murder, using “coded messages” to communicate, investigators said. The key to deciphering those encrypted messages was later discovered during a search of Abayomi’s jail cell, according to Freeman.

“Here’s the deal. He wasn’t very good at his first crime,” Freeman said of Abayomi. “He left evidence at the scene during that robbery that led to his arrest. During this investigation, we found more evidence of his original armed robbery that’s going to be used against him at trial. He’s not very good at what he does.”

The sheriff said in his three decades of law enforcement, he’s never seen so many people conspire to kill the victim of a crime. To make matters worse, authorities said the plan was to make the man’s death appear to be the result of “another crime gone wrong.”

“It doesn’t get more heinous than this,” Freeman told reporters. “A victim of a violent crime was about to be victimized again, and the twisted plot was to make him look like a bad guy.”

Abayomi’s case was set to be among the first prosecuted in Forsyth County as jury trials resume across the state after being put on hold amid the pandemic.

After learning of Abayomi’s alleged plans, deputies notified the victim and helped protect him until those involved were arrested.

“When I was made aware the suspect in my robbery case wanted to have me murdered, obviously I was concerned and scared,” the victim wrote in a statement, calling the plot “something you would see in the movies.”

“To receive the news all the people involved have been arrested is a sigh of relief,” the man wrote.

Credit: Forsyth County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Forsyth County Sheriff's Office

All five suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit murder. They remained held at the Forsyth County Jail on Tuesday afternoon without bond. Authorities said the case remains under investigation and that there may have been additional people involved.