The man who says he arranged the killing of Jill Allen said he never really believed she would die.
Joseph S. Wright admits he played the role of middle-man in the North Salt Lake woman's death by accepting money from Paul Allen to arrange for the slaying of his wife. But Wright said he simply planned to pocket the money."The disbelief allowed me not to believe that (the murder) would happen," Wright testified Tuesday during Paul Allen's preliminary hearing.
Allen, 28, is charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty if convicted of hiring Wright and George A. Taylor to kill his wife. He told police he found his wife dead in their North Salt Lake apartment on Aug. 28, 1996, when he returned home from an outing with friends.
Allen has insisted on his innocence since the slaying.
Wright is also charged with capital murder but has struck a plea agreement with prosecutors and will plead guilty to a pair of third-degree felonies in exchange for his testimony against Paul Allen. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
Wright's wife, Jenny, who said she knew of the alleged murder scheme, was offered immunity for her testimony.
Despite Wright's testimony that the arranged killing was a ruse to rip off Paul Allen, the 26-year-old spent several hours Tuesday outlining a series of meetings and money exchanges leading to Jill Allen's death. Wright said he met Paul Allen in a Salt Lake bar several years ago, and the two became friends.
"He was the kind of guy you wanted to hang out with," Wright said.
Wright testified that Paul Allen approached him in 1995 and asked if he knew anyone who could be hired to kill a man at his place of work. Later, Paul Allen told him the target was his wife and that he'd pay $30,000 for the job - money he would receive from a life insurance policy.
Wright said he contacted Taylor, a friend from work and a drug-dealing partner. Taylor initially dismissed the request, but later agreed to carry out the killing, Wright said.
Paul Allen gave Wright keys to his apartment and his wife's car, according to testimony. Wright then passed the keys to Taylor.
"The original plan was to shoot Jill in the (apartment) parking lot, take her purse, so it looked like a robbery," Wright testified.
Alternative plans were to have Taylor kill Jill Allen in her car or inside the Allens' apartment. Paul Allen was reluctant to have the crime take place inside his residence because he didn't want to find the body or have his stuff stolen, Wright testified.
Wright said he and his wife accompanied Taylor on several trips to North Salt Lake to case out the Allen apartment. He said his 8-year-old daughter joined the trio on one of the excursions.
As time passed, Paul Allen lost patience and repeated "over and over again" that the killing needed to be done, Wright testified.
"(Paul) said, `You should live with her,' " Wright said.
When asked why Allen simply didn't get divorced, Wright answered, "He was concerned about everything being taken from him."
Taylor called Wright on the night of the slaying to report the deed was done and that he wanted his money, Wright testified. Wright said he then passed the news on to Paul Allen, who had been out boating with friends to establish an alibi.
Wright became emotional several times in court Tuesday, saying his testimony gave him peace of mind.
Paul Allen's attorney, Ron Yengich, challenged Wright's claim that he was willing to accept full punishment for his involvement in Jill Allen's murder. Yeng-ich also focused much of his cross-examination on Wright's criminal past and the plea agreement offered in exchange for testifying against Allen.
Taylor was expected to testify Wednesday before 2nd District Judge Michael G. Allphin decides whether Allen will stand trial in the case.