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3 charged in murder-for-hire plot in Lithia

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 01:20 PM

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TAMPA -

Nearly four years after Christie Fay Sehorne told authorities she found her estranged husband's body near her back door in Lithia, she has been charged in what federal authorities describe as a murder-for-hire plot involving Sehorne's then-boyfriend and a former member of the Latin Kings street gang.

Thomas Lee Sehorne, 37, was found shot dead on June 7, 2007. His wife called 911 about 8 a.m.

The couple were estranged when Sehorne was killed. Less than two years after his death, his widow married Jerry Bottorff and the couple settled in Brandon, according to Hillsborough County records.

On Monday, Christie and Bottorff were arrested in Missouri on federal charges of using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot. Another man, Luis Angel Lopez, 23, described by a federal prosecutor as the gunman, was arrested and brought to federal court in Tampa.

All three defendants were ordered held without bail.

The Sehornes were married about eight years and had two children, a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter, when Thomas Sehorne was killed.

The victim was a first mate on an oceangoing tugboat out of Michigan, said his brother, Ben. He would be away 28 days and then home 10 to 12 days.

While her husband was away, Christie Sehorne, who now is 32, began a relationship with Jerry Bottorff, 40, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Downing said during Lopez's bail hearing.

The couple approached a former member of the Latin Kings, Michael A. Garcia, about having someone killed, Downing said. They said they would pay $60,000 for the murder using a portion of the $1 million in life insurance proceeds she would receive, Downing said.

Garcia reached out to Lopez, and the two men went to the Sehorne house the night of the killing, said the prosecutor, adding that Lopez was carrying a .38-caliber firearm.

When Sehorne got to the house after midnight, Lopez was hiding under Christie Sehorne's van in a carport, Downing said.

Thomas Sehorne got out of his truck, and Lopez shot him in the chest, the prosecutor said. When Sehorne fell, Lopez walked over, put the gun against his head and fired the fatal shot, investigators say.

Ben Sehorne and his mother, Juanita, said they knew who was behind it. "There was no doubt in my mind that she was responsible," Ben Sehorne said.

Christie Sehorne refused to cooperate with the investigation into her husband's death, said Ben Sehorne, a sheriff's deputy in Manatee County.

Ben and Juanita Sehorne said she has not allowed them to see the children since Thomas Sehorne's death.

When Thomas Sehorne was killed, he and his wife needed money; their house was in foreclosure, even though, Ben Sehorne said, his brother sent her money to pay bills.

Thomas Sehorne knew his wife had a boyfriend, and he was about to file for divorce, family members said. When he came home to Florida, he was staying with his mother and visiting his children when he could.

Michael Garcia is serving a 210-month federal prison term on drug charges. Court records show he got credit for "substantial assistance" he provided investigators. The records do not give details of that assistance.

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