U.S. News

Woman tries to hire hit man to kill fur-wearer: FBI

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio woman who likened freeing lab animals to liberating Holocaust survivors was being held in custody Wednesday on charges she used Facebook to try to hire a hit man to kill a person at random for wearing fur, prosecutors said.

Meredith Marie Lowell, 27, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was arrested Tuesday at her home by federal agents and has been charged with solicitation to commit murder for offering to pay someone who turned out to be an FBI agent $850 for the killing.

“She was very direct in what she wanted to do to the point where we felt that we needed to act,” said Scott Wilson, an FBI spokesman in Cleveland.

Posing as a woman named “Anne Lowery,” Lowell said in a Facebook posting late last year she wanted to create an online community to find a person willing to kill someone wearing fur, according to an FBI affidavit.

After the FBI learned of the site in November, an FBI agent posing as a hit man began exchanging emails with “Lowery.” He identified her as Lowell and determined she used computers at a library near her house for the postings and emails.

Lowell said she wanted to meet the hit man at the library near her house and expressed disbelief in one exchange that she could be arrested for soliciting a murder over the Internet.

Lowell said in the exchanges she wanted to be present at the killing to hand out “papers” about the fur industry and at one point compared her fight to that of U.S. civil rights activist Rosa Parks, the affidavit said.

During one exchange, Lowell asked the agent for the names of animal rights activists who could help free test animals from the Cleveland Clinic and asked him what the difference was between “animals being tortured in research and humans who were used in experiments in the World War Two Holocaust.”

Lowell said she had complained to local police about the fur industry and railed against a new Cleveland Aquarium, writing that it was wrong to take animals against their will and put them in the equivalent of a bath tub.

Eventually, Lowell wrote she wanted the killing to take place in a library near her home, across from a playground, and told the agent she did not have the money promised, but did have some gold jewelry. She eventually moved “the hit” to October 2012 and offered the agent $100 to do the job.

Lowell said the person should die in less than two minutes and needed to be, “older than 12 -- preferably older than 14 years old,” FBI documents said. The person also “should not be anyone I currently know and definitely should not be anyone my family knows,” Lowell wrote in one exchange.

Lowell, who lives with her two adult brothers and parents, complained in the emails about her family’s refusal to adopt a vegan diet and wrote, “I cannot stand living in a house where there are fur products that my family refuses to get rid of.”

A detention hearing has been scheduled for February 28 in U.S. District Court.

Editing by David Bailey and Daniel Trotta