Murder for hire plot shocks upstate community
by Carol Thompson
News that a Watertown, NY social worker attempted to hire a hitman to kill the father of her daughter’s child has rocked the small northern New York community and garnered national attention.
Melisa Rae Schonfield, a social worker and wife of a local dentist, was charged by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department with second-degree conspiracy and second-degree criminal solicitation.
Senior Detective Dave Pustizzi said Schonfield was arrested Friday morning after she met with an undercover sheriff’s detective who was posing as a hitman.
The 57 year old mother met with the undercover detective thinking he was a contract killer and agreed to pay him $11,000 to murder her daughter’s estranged boyfriend, identified as 36 year old Ernesto Negrillo of Florida. She allegedly told the investigator to dispose of his body by throwing it to the alligators.
The investigator met with Schonfield in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart on Arsenal Street in the city.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Kim Brown, who only recently moved to the area. “I thought I was moving to a quiet place and the first paper I buy I see this. It’s just shocking to think anyone would do something like that especially in such a small community.”
The case made national news. Nightline interviewed Schonfield’s daughter Alexis who said she and Negrillo have a 2-year-old child together. She added that Negrillo had been verbally abusive to her.
“This only happens on a Lifetime movie, you know?” Alexis Schonfield said. “My mom is not a monster.”
Schoenfield is now free on bail. The sheriff’s department did not state who paid the bail bond.
Murder for hire arrests are not uncommon. Just yesterday Phil Rudd, the 60-year-old AC/DC drummer, was arrested in New Zealand on charges that he tried to have two people murdered.
In August a Florida man, 43-year-old Vincent Abraham Madhavath, was arrested after he allegedly offered an undercover investigator $15,000 to kill his wife.