Kiowa County DA charges man arrested in murder plot

Tuesday, September 28th 2004, 6:59 am
By: News On 6

HOBART, Okla. (AP) -- Kiowa County prosecutors have formally charged a Hobart man who allegedly plotted to kill a state trooper.

A count of devising a plan or scheme to cause the death of a person was filed Monday against Gentry Howard Elston, 49, who remained jailed on $1 million bail. The plot wasn't carried out.

Elston is accused of conspiring with James Warren Craig to kill Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Strain.

Craig informed Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Agent Tom Linn in June that Elston offered Craig $5,000 to kill Strain in August or September 2002 and had solicited Craig 36 times to follow through on the offer since then, an affidavit filed in the case states.

A few weeks before Craig contacted Linn, Elston solicited Craig to also kill Kiowa County Sheriff Buck Jones and an unnamed man, the affidavit states.

Craig declined and was asked if he knew anyone who would do the killings, according to the affidavit.

Attempts to reach Jones or a Kiowa County sheriff's official Tuesday weren't immediately successful.

Trooper Pete Norwood, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said troopers getting threats aren't something unusual, and said they are always on guard.

"You never really take it seriously, but when someone takes the time to pay someone or solicits funds to have you murdered" you take note of it, Norwood said.

Strain is assigned to the Kiowa County detachment of Troop M, which also covers Greer, Harmon, Jackson and Tillman counties in southwestern Oklahoma, Norwood said.

According to the affidavit, Craig agreed to arrange a meeting between Elston and OSBI Agent Bob Horn, who posed as a hit man. But during the meeting, Elston declined to have the man kill Strain.

Elston allegedly changed his mind at a later encounter with Craig and accused Strain of killing his dog. According to the affidavit, Elston asked to meet with Horn again to set up the hit.

Norwood said he had no information about the alleged incident involving the dog and didn't know if Elston and Strain knew each other.

"I'm not sure if there was any contact between the two of them. I don't know if it's something personal between them."

Elston allegedly gave Craig a semiautomatic pistol, which Elston said he understood was to be given to Horn to use in killing Strain and his wife.

When Elston and Horn met again Aug. 6, Elston told Horn that he'd rather kill Strain himself after Strain retired, the affidavit alleges.

The investigation is continuing, authorities said.