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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Murder for hire
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 18, 2005
Date of arrest: June 23, 2006
Date of birth: 1958
Victim profile: Ronald Whitehead, 61 (her husband)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Des Moines, King County, Washington, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 22 years in prison on June 5, 2008
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Woman sentenced to 22 years in prison for plotting slaying of her husband

A Des Moines woman accused of plotting the 2005 slaying of her husband that was made to look like a carjacking was sentenced to 22 years in prison for first-degree murder.

By Jennifer Sullivan -

June 5, 2008

A Des Moines woman who masterminded her husband's 2005 slaying sobbed as she pleaded for forgiveness in court this morning, but her tears were spurned by a judge who called her self-defense argument a lie.

Velma Ogden-Whitehead, 50, walked into court anticipating the 20- year sentence worked out by prosecutors and her defense attorney in a plea agreement. Instead, King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez sentenced her to 22 years behind bars.

Ogden-Whitehead claimed that the slaying was in reaction to sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her husband of 10 years, which drew a sharp rebuke from Gonzalez.

"You are the perpetrator, not the victim you claim to be," Gonzalez said. "Your claims of abuse and suffering are hollow."

Ronald Whitehead, 61, was fatally shot near SeaTac while driving to work on March 18, 2005. Prosecutors say that Ogden-Whitehead recruited her son, who hired classmate Wilson Sayachack to carry out the slaying.

After her husband was found dead, Ogden-Whitehead appealed publicly for help finding the killer. For more than a year after the slaying, police examined his wife's finances and personal relationships. Investigators say that Ogden-Whitehead and her husband had a rocky marriage and that she had an affair with a fellow employee at the auto-parts store where she worked.

When she pleaded guilty last month Ogden-Whitehead admitted giving Sayachack information about her husband's schedule.

In court today, Ogden-Whitehead read from a handwritten note as she apologized for the slaying.

"There are not enough words to express my remorse for what this has done to my family," she said. "I deeply regret that I took matters into my own hands. I made a poor choice."

Prosecutors say Sayachack, 16 at the time of the slaying, hid in the trunk of Whitehead's car while Jon Ogden, Whitehead's stepson, was in the passenger seat. The slaying was intended to look like a carjacking, police said.

Sayachack the accused shooter has been tried twice for his alleged role in the slaying. The first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn't agree on a verdict. The second trial ended in a mistrial in April when a key witness came forward and a handgun thought to be the murder weapon was discovered during the trial, requiring more investigation time for attorneys.

The handgun, which has been tested since it was discovered by police in an unrelated drug seizure in Puyallup, turned out to be the murder weapon, said Craig Peterson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

Ogden is scheduled to go to trial July 21, and Sayachack's third trial is scheduled for Sept. 22.

Whitehead's family unleashed their anger on Ogden-Whitehead in court today, calling her a manipulative, sadistic, coldblooded murderer who was motivated by money. They said that today was the first time they had ever heard Ogden-Whitehead claim she was a victim of domestic violence. The slain Boeing worker's daughter, her fiancee and Whitehead's stepsister pleaded for a harsh sentence.

"Velma, you stole Ron's future from him, from me and from my brother," Kimberley Whitehead, the slain man's daughter, said looking toward Ogden-Whitehead. "You have broken our hearts. You have made me an orphan."

Gonzalez told Ogden-Whitehead that the abuse she claimed to have suffered at the hands of Whitehead was an "insult to him [Whitehead] and his memory."

"You played the part of a grieving widow and a crime victim as you spend money on your lover," Gonzalez said. "Your tears are not for making your son a murderer, nor are they for Mr. Whitehead. Your tears are for yourself."


22 years for plotting husband's death

Judge rejects Des Moines woman's claims of abuse as 'hollow'

By Tracy Johnson -

Thursday, June 5, 2008

She claimed her husband abused her and that she had no idea he would end up dead even as she plotted for him to be ambushed on his way to work.

But a King County judge on Thursday didn't buy Velma Ogden-Whitehead's tearful story. His words stinging and stern, he scolded her for playing the part of a grieving widow as he sent her to prison for 22 years.

"Domestic violence victims deserve our compassion and resources, but the domestic violence victim is not you," Judge Steven Gonzalez told the gray-haired Des Moines woman. "Your claims of abuse and suffering, I must say, are hollow."

Ogden-Whitehead, 50, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last month in the 2005 death of her husband, Ronald Whitehead, who was shot four times near Sea-Tac Airport and shoved from his car.

She admitted helping her teenage son and his friend -- who are expected to face murder trials this year -- with a plan to steal her husband's car. She maintained that she did not expect him to be killed.

"I deeply regret that I took matters into my own hands instead of letting the police and the courts sort out the mess between my husband and I," she said Thursday, asking for forgiveness from everyone she hurt.

Defense attorney Jonathan Newcomb said the woman had told people her husband abused her long before he was killed and even showed them injuries.

He also said she suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis and would probably be in a wheelchair by the time she gets out of prison -- if she lives that long.

But Whitehead's daughter was adamant that the "trusting, honorable man and loving, dependable father" did not abuse anyone. She and others said the false claim was just another attempt to manipulate and wring sympathy from people.

"Velma Ogden-Whitehead killed my father simply because she wanted his money," Kimberley Whitehead said. "She may not have pulled the trigger, but what she did was worse."

She told the judge she was now an orphan who would not have her father to walk her down the aisle, see his future grandchildren or dispense advice.

"She believed she had everyone fooled -- that my father was the victim of a random carjacking," she said. "She does not deserve to ever be free again."

Her fiance, Jay Hildebrand, said Ogden-Whitehead even made it impossible for relatives to grieve peacefully because she had her name added to Whitehead's headstone, a sight he called disgusting.

He called her an "incredible, manipulative liar" who sought out interviews with the media and attended support groups for violent crime victims -- people who were unknowingly "sitting in the room, sharing their innermost feelings with a murderer."

Prosecutors and Newcomb recommended the low end of the usual 20- to 27-year sentence as part of a plea agreement, though the judge added two years.

Ogden-Whitehead's son, Jonathan Ogden, and his friend, Wilson Sayachack, both have pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

Whitehead was killed March 18, 2005. Investigators say Sayachack hid in the trunk of the 61-year-old Boeing employee's car, then pushed down the back seat to shoot him.

Sayachack's attorneys have said the teen had nothing to do with the plan or Whitehead's death.

Sheriff's detectives spent more than a year building their case as Ogden-Whitehead -- who they say was having an affair with a 26-year-old co-worker -- made public pleas for her husband's killer to come forward.

Her 2006 arrest was an unexpected twist in the already odd case, which explains why local true-crime writer Ann Rule went to Thursday's sentencing and may add the case to one of her anthologies.


Des Moines woman pleads guilty in husband's slaying

A Des Moines woman accused of plotting the 2005 slaying of her husband pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder under a plea deal...

By Natalie Singer -

A Des Moines woman accused of plotting the 2005 slaying of her husband pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder under a plea deal with prosecutors.

Velma Ogden-Whitehead had been scheduled to go on trial on murder charges this summer, followed by her son, Jon Ogden, also charged in the alleged murder-for-hire plot that targeted Ronald Whitehead, a 61-year-old career Boeing employee.

Ogden-Whitehead, 50, said in a statement read in court Thursday that she planned the robbery of her husband that was carried out by her son and his friend Wilson Sayachack. She denied knowing he would be shot but conceded she knew that guns were readily available in their home and that force might be used.

The standard sentencing range for the first-degree murder charge is 20 to 26 years in prison. Sentencing is set for June 5.

Sayachack the accused shooter has been tried twice for his alleged role in the slaying. The first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn't agree on a verdict. The second trial ended last month when King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez called a mistrial after a key witness came forward and a handgun thought to be the murder weapon was discovered during the trial, requiring more investigation time for attorneys.

The handgun, which has been tested since it was discovered by police in an unrelated drug seizure in Puyallup, turned out to be the murder weapon, Craig Peterson, senior deputy prosecuting attorney, said this morning.

Whitehead was fatally shot March 18, 2005, near SeaTac while he was driving to work, in a slaying police said was made to look like a carjacking.

Prosecutors say Sayachack, 16 at the time, hid in the trunk of Whitehead's car while Jon Ogden, Whitehead's stepson, was in the passenger seat.

Ogden-Whitehead, who for months after the slaying appealed publicly for help finding her husband's killer, admitted she allowed Sayachack to hide in her garage and gave him information about her husband's schedule.

"I knew about it and facilitated it," she said in her statement.

Ogden-Whitehead, who sobbed through the hearing, was accused of paying Sayachack $1,000 for the killing. Police said she made hundreds of thousands of dollars after selling property she inherited upon Whitehead's death.

"Some of the motivations here are difficult to put a finger on," said her defense attorney Jonathan Neucomb. "It wasn't to do with any financial gain ... . There were things going on in that marriage that we'll discuss at sentencing. It was not a happy marriage."

Neucomb said Whitehead decided to plead guilty in part because she was upset that her case had been made by prosecutors to look like a premeditated murder, and in part because the evidence that would have been presented at trial would have shown her connection to the robbery.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a part of the charge that could have added five years to her sentence for use of a firearm.

Prosecutors said the deal was a good one because Ogden-Whitehead will still serve a significant sentence for first-degree murder, and because both sides of the family were in agreement about avoiding her trial.

Peterson said he wasn't sure how the plea might affect the other two defendants. Ogden is to go to trial July 21, and Sayachack's third trial is scheduled for Sept. 22.


Three charged in family plot to kill man for his money

By Joe Mullin -

June 28, 2006

In the six months after her husband was slain last year in an apparent carjacking, Velma Ogden-Whitehead became a millionaire.

She sold two properties that were part of her husband's estate for a profit of $460,000 and collected life insurance and benefits from his employer that totaled more than $650,000, according to King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng. She took trips to Las Vegas, bought new cars and was planning to move to Arkansas, Maleng said.

But now there's $5 million bail and a murder charge standing between Ogden-Whitehead and those plans.

King County prosecutors on Tuesday charged Ogden-Whitehead, her 18-year-old son Jon Ogden and his 17-year-old friend Wilson Sayachack with first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Ronald Whitehead in the SeaTac area.

According to charging papers, Ogden-Whitehead hatched the plan.

Investigators say Sayachack, who is being charged as an adult, was paid $1,000 by Jon Ogden to kill Whitehead on March 18, 2005, and make it look like a random carjacking. The Seattle Times generally does not name minors unless they have been charged as adults.

"We now see what we are reluctant to see," Maleng said during a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the charges. "A man who was set up and murdered by his own family for financial reasons."

In the weeks and months after the slaying, Ogden-Whitehead gave numerous media interviews, pleading for her husband's killer to come forward. On Tuesday, Maleng characterized her pleas for justice as "a part of the plan, and a part of the cover-up."

Whitehead, 61 and a career Boeing employee, was shot at an intersection near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, about three miles from the couple's Des Moines home. Witnesses described seeing Whitehead's slumped body being pushed from his black Ford Mustang, then hearing three more shots.

The car was found later a few miles away, and detectives presumed Whitehead had died in a carjacking.

When Whitehead's body was found with his wallet in his pocket, police began to suspect that the random carjacking story wasn't true, Maleng said. The alleged carjackers apparently wanted neither Whitehead's car nor money.

Those suspicions led to a 15-month investigation in which police examined Ogden-Whitehead's finances and personal relationships.

They learned that Ogden-Whitehead stood to gain financially from her husband's death. In addition to life insurance, retirement accounts and benefits from Boeing valued in excess of $650,000, Whitehead owned four rental properties, two of which she later sold for a profit of $460,000, Maleng said.

"Velma was living a new lifestyle now that Ron was dead," Maleng said.

According to the investigators' account, Ogden-Whitehead and her husband had a rocky marriage. The investigators said she had complained to an acquaintance that her husband was physically abusive and that she had temporarily moved out of their home around the end of 2004.

Investigators also said she complained to one co-worker that her husband was "verbally and mentally abusing" her but that she didn't feel she could afford to leave him. She also said her husband had cut her off from using credit cards because she spent too much money.

Investigators also learned that Ogden-Whitehead had an affair with a fellow employee at the auto-parts store where she worked.

Police subpoenaed phone records showing Jon Ogden and Sayachack exchanged 53 text messages on their cellphones in the hours just before the slaying.

Those records ultimately proved to be the key to the investigation, Maleng said. In addition to the text messages, police say Ogden received a call on his cellphone at 5:44 a.m. the day Whitehead was killed the exact time that police received a 911 call from a witness who saw Whitehead pushed from the car and shot.

Detectives also found a print from Sayachack's right palm in the back seat of the Mustang.

According to charging papers, Sayachack hid in the trunk of the Mustang that morning as Whitehead headed to work and Jon Ogden, Whitehead's stepson, was seated in the passenger seat. Sometime during the trip Sayachack climbed through the folding back seat and, at Ogden's urging, shot Whitehead in the back of the head, according to the charges.

Jon Ogden then helped Sayachack push Whitehead out of the car, charging papers say. Ogden then shot Whitehead three times in the back, according to charging papers.

The weapon used to kill Whitehead has not been found. But authorities believe it was one of the three weapons owned by Whitehead, only two of which were recovered by police.

Investigators found "some, but not sufficient" evidence of aggravating factors that would justify the death penalty, Maleng said. If convicted, all three defendants face sentences of 25 to 32 years.


Alleged murder-for-hire plot described in court documents

By Jonathan Martin -

June 25, 2006

Last March, at the one-year anniversary of her husband's murder, Velma L. Ogden-Whitehead returned to the scene of the crime to demand the killer apparently a vicious carjacker turn himself in.

King County sheriff's detectives, meanwhile, were piecing together a different theory: that Ogden-Whitehead herself had arranged a murder-for-hire scheme to kill Ronald Whitehead.

The scheme, described in court documents released Saturday, included paying $1,000 to a then-16-year-old friend of her son to hide in the trunk, then shoot Whitehead as he drove to work at Boeing on March 18, 2005.

She profited from "a large amount of insurance money" from the crime and was making plans to move to Arkansas, according to the documents. When confronted by detectives, Ogden-Whitehead's son and friend allegedly admitted to the crime, detectives say.

Ogden-Whitehead, 48, and her 18-year-old son, John J. Ogden, were arrested Friday on suspicion of first-degree murder.

At a court hearing in the King County Jail on Saturday, King County prosecutors asked for $5 million bail for each defendant. But King County District Court Judge Fred L. Yeatts ordered them both held without bail because, he said, the case was serious enough to qualify for capital punishment.

King County prosecutors plan to file charges against the mother, son and the alleged gunman early this week, possibly Monday. Ogden's friend is being held in King County juvenile detention on an unrelated charge. The Times generally does not name minors unless they have been charged as adults.

Prosecutor Carla Carlstrom said the charges would be murder, but she said she did not know if her office would file the aggravated-murder charge that could result in the death penalty. As a minor at the time of the crime, Ogden could not be put to death in Washington.

Ogden-Whitehead gave numerous interviews to local media over the past year, and she helped raise about $16,000 in reward money. Her public pleas did not help or hinder the investigation, said sheriff's spokesman John Urquhart.

"This was a matter of putting a lot of little bits of information together over several months before it pointed to these three people," he said. "More of those little bits and pieces will be released in the charging documents."

Whitehead, 61 and a career Boeing employee, was shot about three miles from the house in Des Moines that he and his wife had bought a decade before. Witnesses described seeing Whitehead's slumped body being pushed from his black Mustang, then hearing three more shots, including one to the head.

The car was found later a few miles away, and detectives presumed Whitehead had been killed in a carjacking.

The court documents released Saturday give sparse details of the subsequent investigation. Detectives at some point found evidence that Ogden-Whitehead had given her son's friend a prepaid cellphone, and they confronted the teen.

The friend, after waiving his Miranda rights, told authorities he hid in the trunk and shot Whitehead for $1,000, according to court documents. Ogden, after he was arrested, confirmed the story to detectives, describing how he had referred his friend "to his mother as someone that could help her get rid of Mr. Whitehead," according to the court documents.

Ogden, the documents said, also told detectives that he had text messages sent to the prepaid phone laying out the murder plans.

It was unclear from the court documents whether Ogden-Whitehead had also cooperated with detectives. Urquhart and prosecutor Carla Carlstrom declined to elaborate on the evidence until charges are filed, and attorneys for Ogden-Whitehead and her son declined to comment.

Despite her past accessibility to the media, Ogden-Whitehead, wearing red jail coveralls Saturday, demanded that she not be photographed during yesterday's court hearing. Yates consented to the request and to a similar one from her son.

Angela Ogden, Ogden-Whitehead's 23-year-old daughter, said she knew nothing about the allegations or evidence against her mother or stepbrother.

"It's unbelievable. It's unbelievable," she said.

She said her grandparents live in Arkansas and that her mother had talked about moving out of her Des Moines house. But her mother had not discussed leaving the area, she said.

She said she talked with her mother and brother Saturday. Her mother sounded scared, she said. "She's never been in a place like that," said Ogden, referring to jail.


"Random homicide" in morning commute

By Sara Jean Green -

March 19, 2005

Ronald Whitehead backed out of his Des Moines garage early yesterday and was heading to Bellevue, where he worked with Boeing's computer systems.

Less than three miles from his home, he was found shot to death, his body pushed from his car and left in the middle of an intersection by an apparent carjacker in what police are characterizing as a random crime.

The working theory, said King County Sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart, is that Whitehead, 61, was carjacked sometime after he left home and that the carjacker shot him from the passenger seat of Whitehead's black 2000 Mustang.

He said investigators won't know for sure what happened until they catch the person who shot Whitehead and stole his car.

A witness called 911 at 5:45 a.m. after seeing Whitehead being pushed from the vehicle at the intersection of Eighth Avenue South and Des Moines Memorial Drive, near the border between Burien and SeaTac, Urquhart said.

The carjacker drove off, heading east toward SeaTac.

Whitehead was shot at least twice, including once in the head, Urquhart said.

Three shell casings were found on the pavement, Urquhart said.

As of last evening, police had not found Whitehead's car.

"It is pretty unusual for a carjacking to go this far wrong," Urquhart said. "They're always traumatic. They're always violent, but not to the point where someone dies."

Whitehead's death "is apparently a random homicide ... ," Urquhart said. "They're the hardest to solve."

"A shocking tragedy"

Sheri Conn was a couple of minutes late for work yesterday at Sisters Espresso, a coffee shack near the intersection where Whitehead's body was found. When she got there, the first officers were just arriving.

"There was an officer standing there taking [Whitehead's] pulse," said Conn, 21. "He looked at another officer and just shook his head."

Whitehead, a 42-year Boeing employee, worked at the Boeing Shared Services Campus near Eastgate in Bellevue, company spokesman Dean Tougas said.

"This is obviously a shocking tragedy, and the people of Boeing are deeply saddened by losing their co-worker. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends," Tougas said in a statement. "... This event has been a blow to his co-workers and Boeing is providing counselors to help them cope with this very sad news."

Plea for help

Last night, Whitehead's wife, Velma, two adult daughters and two family friends gathered outside his home asking for tips or for the suspect to turn himself in. Whitehead also has two sons, ages 16 and 33.

"Someone took away my dad, and I just hope that this person comes forward," said Kimberley Whitehead, 38.

Jay Hildebrand, a family spokesman and Kimberley Whitehead's boyfriend, said the family didn't understand the crime.

"It is heartless ... and you can't make sense of it for the life of you," he said.

Whitehead was a loving father who liked to spend time at home with his family, Hildebrand said.

"He doesn't have any enemies or anything like that," Hildebrand said. "He was just a normal, everyday man."

Yesterday afternoon, Whitehead's neighbors described him as a "friendly fellow" with a "quiet sense of humor." Whitehead and his wife moved into the neighborhood a decade ago and spent much of their free time working on old cars, fixing them up and selling them, according to the couple next door, who asked not to be named.

Whitehead's family was very close, the couple said. A birthday party had been planned for today at the Whitehead residence for Whitehead's grandson, who turns 3 on April 1, they said.

"He was a very good man," said a woman who lives across the street. "He always helped me when my car got into trouble.

"Our neighborhood is not one that does a lot of intermingling unless we need each other," said the woman, who declined to give her name. Whitehead, she said, was always there in times of need.

"This is a very quiet neighborhood and we've been very, very fortunate" that crime hasn't been a problem, she said. "That's why this seems so unreal. I don't know what to even think. It's just so scary."

Times staff reporters Ashley Bach and Christine Clarridge contributed to this report.



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