A Cleveland newlywed was convicted Friday of plotting the murder of her firefighter husband, who was fatally shot in the driveway of their home nearly four years ago, PEOPLE confirms.
Uloma Curry-Walker, 45, was found guilty of aggravated murder, felonious assault and conspiracy in the Nov. 3, 2013, slaying of veteran Cleveland firefighter William Walker, to whom she had been married for four months.
Jurors reached their verdict after deliberating for less than two hours. They found Curry-Walker guilty on what would have been her fourth wedding anniversary.
Prosecutors say Curry-Walker, who will be sentenced on Aug. 8, was in deep debt and nearing financial ruin when she offered $10,000 to her then-17-year-old daughter’s boyfriend, Chad Padgett, in order to kill her husband so she could benefit from his city pension and a $100,000 life insurance policy.
Also complicit in the deadly scheme, according to authorities, were Curry-Walker’s daughter and two other young men, as well as the daughter’s boyfriend. All four have since pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with Walker’s death and testified against Curry-Walker at her trial.
“Lt. Walker was a well-respected firefighter and member of our community,” said Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Prosecutor Michael O’Malley. (Efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.)
“This ill-conceived plan was motivated strictly by greed,” O’Malley said. “We are pleased with the verdict and anticipate a lengthy prison sentence.”
The defense has its own theory of the crime, however, and tells PEOPLE that Curry-Walker maintains her innocence and “is anxious to get her appeal started.”
Planning to Kill
According to prosecutors, Curry-Walker first reached out to Padgett, now 23, paying about $1,000 as a down payment to hire him to kill her husband.
Padgett agreed and reached out to his cousin, Chris Hein, but Hein, now 24, got cold feet, prosecutors said.
Instead, Hein then contacted Ryan Dorty, now 25, who — according to Robert Dixon, Curry-Walker’s attorney — agreed to kill Walker for $800.
“He came in and testified that he did it for $800 without hesitation,” Dixon says. “He just seemed matter-of-fact about it. It was just a job.”
Walker was shot four times with a 9mm pistol supplied by Hein around 8:30 that November night, as Walker was entering his home carrying a bag of McDonald’s. Prosecutors said that Dorty, the shooter, waited for Walker near the garage and ambushed him as he was unlocking a side door.
Curry-Walker then called 911 and drove with her husband in the ambulance to the hospital where he died.
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“There was one person who wanted William Walker dead and it was Uloma Curry-Walker,” Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Blaise Thomas told jurors. “And she paid these young people and ruined their lives to accomplish her criminal purpose.”
Dorty has pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, Hein has pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and conspiracy and Padgett has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy, according to authorities.
CBS News reports that in exchange for their pleas and testimony, Dorty, Hein and Padgett agreed to be sentenced to 23 years to life, 18 years to life and 28 years to life, respectively. Curry-Walker’s daughter, who was not charged as an adult and reportedly pleaded guilty to delinquency charges, will spend a month in juvenile detention.
During the trial, the jury saw cell phone records that showed calls and text messages between Curry-Walker, her daughter and Hein leading up to the shooting.
Curry-Walker’s daughter said on the stand that her mother brought up the idea of killing Walker during a car ride with Padgett and told him to make it look like a botched robbery.
Curry-Walker’s daughter also testified that her mom told her, “No one would believe I would hire a bunch of kids to kill someone when I know people that could.”
While prosecutors described Walker’s life insurance money as a main motive in his death, they said that Curry-Walker never actually got any of it because he had not finished switching over his life insurance policy from his ex-wife before he was murdered.
As a result, his ex-wife remained the beneficiary of the policy.
Defense attorney Dixon says the prosecution’s theory about the life insurance policy was ludicrous. “For them to argue that she must not have known there was no insurance, I think that is absurd,” he says. “If you were going to be a mastermind on something like this, you would certainly think any kind of mastermind would probably check that out first.”
Dixon says that Curry-Walker had no reason to kill her husband.
“One theory advanced is he was a really mean man and she wanted him out of her life.” he says. “There was absolutely nothing to substantiate that. They went on mini-vacations together. There was no hint of a domestic violence claim from either side.”
Dixon says his client worked in home healthcare for many prominent families in Cleveland. She also had a business with her husband where they trained people to do phlebotomy.
The defense’s theory, says Dixon, was that the daughter and her boyfriend orchestrated the killing — but “we couldn’t develop any strong motivation for that.”
As Curry-Walker’s guilty verdict was announced, she began to cry. It was, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the first time she showed emotion during the trial.