- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

AURORA, Neb. (AP) - An Aurora man has been convicted of twice trying to hire someone to kill his wife.

Robert Honken is guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, according to a ruling released Tuesday on his nonjury trial earlier this month. Honken, who is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 20, faces up to 50 years in prison on each count.

Authorities have said Honken first paid Derrick Shirley, 31, of Bradshaw, to kill Honken’s wife, Bethany Honken. They said Shirley did surveillance around the woman’s Hamilton County home but never tried to kill her. Nonetheless, prosecutors later charged Shirley with conspiracy to commit murder; in a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded no contest to a weapons charge and awaits sentencing Thursday.

Court documents say Honken then tried to hire another person, but that person instead contacted authorities. Officers set up another call with Honken, who told the person that he wanted his wife “out of the way” and said he’d hired another potential killer - Shirley - who backed out of the job.

Authorities then arranged a meeting between Honken and a State Patrol investigator posing as the would-be hit man. Honken gave the investigator $500 as a down payment, the court documents say, and was arrested soon after the meeting.



Judge Rachel Daugherty rejected Honken’s motion to dismiss one of the counts because it amounted to double jeopardy. She said in her ruling that the acts were different, because one count was for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder when Honken made contact with Shirley and the other was based on Honken making a down payment to the undercover investigator.

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