- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Law enforcement officers used recordings of jailhouse phone calls and video chats to foil an attempted hit on a man who witnessed a homicide, Milwaukee County prosecutors said Thursday.

Three men and a woman from Milwaukee are charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree intentional homicide and other felonies, according to a criminal complaint filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. It said the four defendants conspired to kill John Spivey, a man investigators learned had witnessed the fatal shooting of Eddie Powe in Milwaukee last July. One of the four defendants, Antonio Smith, 33, is charged with killing Powe.

According to the complaint, Smith conspired, while he was in the Milwaukee County Jail, with the other defendants to have Spivey killed. Prosecutors said he directed his girlfriend, Shantrell Lyons, 20, his nephew, Shaheem Smith, 21 and Lorenzo Beaton, 34, to carry out a hit on Spivey. Investigators recorded Smith’s phone calls and two-way video chats from the jail, according to the complaint.

Smith directed Lyons and another defendant to pay $7,600 cash bail to get Spivey out of jail where he was being held on a gun possession charge, prosecutors said. But, before he could be released, investigators intercepted Spivey and discreetly moved him to a secure location because Lyons, Beaton and another individual were waiting outside the jail for him to be released.

Authorities said that in another recorded call from jail, Smith could be heard yelling at Lyons about the failure to find Spivey. Later that evening, investigators said they spotted the defendants’ vehicle parked outside Spivey’s Milwaukee house and when officers approached, the vehicle took off.

Lyons, Beaton and Shaheem Smith were arrested the following day. The complaint said the three have confessed to the crime.

Antonio Smith’s attorney, Daniel Sanders, said his client is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Lyon’s attorney did not immediately return a call and lawyers for the other two defendants were not listed in court records.

“Because of his incredible work by the law enforcement agencies involved, we were able to prevent a homicide from occurring,” Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said at a news conference Thursday. Chisholm also credited the county’s program which protects witnesses.

Those witnesses “can seek justice in the proper form, which is here, not out on the street,” he said.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department and Milwaukee police cooperated on the investigation.

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