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Man arrested in murder-for-hire plan

A 70-year-old man accused in a murder-for-hire scheme allegedly told an undercover federal agent that he wanted the testicles, eyeballs and thumbs of his intended victim.

Investigators say Robert Barnett of Magoffin County tried to arrange the murder of a man who owed him money in Huntington, W.Va.

During a detention hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Lexington, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent laid out the case against Barnett.

Special Agent Jesse Hooker said Barnett gave him a machine gun with a silencer and a .22-caliber pistol with silencer and laser sight to be shot at the victim's head at close range to ensure death.

The retired coal operator and equipment shop owner also allegedly said he planned to have other people either abducted or killed, including a doctor in Columbia, Md., who used to practice in Paintsville, and four people in Salyersville.

Hooker posed as a hit man from Reno, Nev., when he met Barnett at a Mount Sterling motel. That and subsequent meetings with Barnett were recorded. A confidential informant was also used.

When Barnett allegedly requested that the body parts of the West Virginia man be brought to him, the agent said he could bring the body parts, but it would probably kill the victim.

Barnett then allegedly said he preferred to not have the man killed, but he understood.

"'Do what you have to do. Leave him laying on the floor,'" Hooker recalled Barnett saying.

Barnett was to pay $10,000 for the hit — $1,000 of which would go toward the purchase of the machine gun.

Hooker said the man in West Virginia allegedly owed Barnett about $7,000.

Agents arrested Barnett on March 6 outside Stephens Truck & Trailer Sales in Sal yersville.

During Thursday's hearing, Barnett's attorney, Cullen Gault, argued that his client should be released on bond. Gault said Barnett is a longtime resident and family man in Salyersville, and, aside from a "blip on the radar screen," he had a clean record.

That blip was in 1983, when Barnett was tried on charges that he mailed a bomb to Lexington coal broker Jack Daniel, who lost his legs and part of a hand when the bomb exploded. Barnett, who had lost $225,000 in a business venture with Daniel nearly a decade earlier, was acquitted.

The judge decided against Gault's request and ordered that Barnett remain in the Fayette County jail.

Gault said the agent's testimony was only the government's side of the story.

"We'll tell ours through the court system," he said. Gault declined to elaborate, and several family members declined to comment afterward.