A federal trial that began this week in New York City will determine whether or not three former U.S. soldiers, including an Army sniper with Special Forces training, traveled as mercenaries to the Philippines to kill a real estate agent on behalf of a South African crime lord.
Joseph Hunter, Adam Samia, and David Stillwell are accused of participating in a 2012 contract killing for $35,000 each resulting in the murder of Catherine Lee, who the trio’s alleged boss, Paul Le Roux, felt cheated him in a land deal, according to the Associated Press. While Stillwell admits to driving the van Lee was shot twice in, the men deny actually planning or partaking in the killing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Egan begs to differ. “These men are criminals and they committed brutal murders,” the prosecutor said in the Manhattan courtroom Tuesday, according to the Daily Beast.
The prosecution alleges that Hunter, 52, was doing security for Le Roux — who globally trafficked drugs and weapons — when he recruited Samia and Stillwell from the U.S. to take part in the hit. Hunter equipped them with silenced firearms, Egan said, before they staked Lee out and contacted her pretending to be interested clients.
“If Paul Le Roux wanted somebody killed, these guys got the call,” Egan said, according to the AP. “For these men, more murders meant more money.”
Egan said that as Stillwell drove the van in a rural region outside of the Philippines’ capital, Manila, Samia shot Lee in the face with a .22-caliber firearm while she was seated in the back seat of the vehicle. Egan said the two men dumped her in a mound of trash on the side of a road.
In addition to admitting he drove the van, a photo of a bloody head wrapped in towel was found on Stillwell’s phone around the time Lee was killed, authorities found in an investigation, according to the AP. Prosecutors also say there is video evidence of Hunter discussing hits done for Le Roux, including a real estate broker in the Philippines.
Still, defense attorneys on Tuesday argue that Samia only agreed “to do legitimate, legal security work,” the AP reports. Stillman’s attorney says that he never participated in a murder conspiracy. Hunter’s lawyer said the government lacked enough conclusive evidence to prove his client guilty.