Two sisters in a sleepy Idaho town were arrested after they allegedly offered an undercover cop money, guns, and ammo to kill their neighbor.
Debra Wensman, 50, and Doris Wensman, 46—who operate a farm in Greencreek—are each charged with a felony: criminal solicitation to commit a crime. Both were held on separate $100,000 bonds before being released over the weekend.
The alleged murder-for-hire was hatched last week, when the siblings tried to enlist a fuel oil delivery man to execute their neighbor, 57-year-old Ed Stubbers. The driver declined the offer and contacted the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, which sent a plainclothes deputy to the Wensman property, which abuts Stubbers’ land, for a sting operation. That officer was also solicited for a contract killing, authorities say.
After the sheriff announced the arrests of the Wensman sisters, residents in and around the unincorporated town of about 150 people went online to speculate on motive. A realtor suggested neighbors harassed the women, “who were scared for their lives and their land.” Another local echoed this, writing, “They honestly fear for [their] safety.”
Neither the Wensmans nor Stubbers could be reached for comment.
Asked about the harassment rumors, Sheriff Doug Giddings told The Daily Beast that the women felt paranoid that people were trying to take their land. “Whether they were really being harassed or not, I don’t know,” Giddings said.
“There’s lots of stories floating around and there probably always will be. What the actual truth is, were they harassed? Well, they believe they were,” he added.
“People wanted to buy the ranch, and they didn’t want to sell,” Giddings said.
When the Wensman sisters encountered the oil delivery man, Ryan Mader, on Tuesday, they accused him of spying on them and coming over under cover of darkness to assess their property, the Lewiston Tribune reported.
Mader denied visiting their farm at night before the conversation took a strange turn, according to an affidavit obtained by the newspaper. No sooner had the women accused Mader of prowling than they made their alleged proposal: murder Stubbers in exchange for $5,000, guns, and ammunition.
The sisters told Mader they’d tried to hire a hitman to kill Stubbers before but their plan never came to fruition, the affidavit alleges.
Mader returned to his workplace in Grangeville and told his employer of the incident—and that he never wanted to deliver to the Wensmans again, the document states.
On Thursday, the Idaho County investigators had a plan of their own, with one undercover deputy dressed in plain clothes and a wire paying the siblings a visit.
According to police, the sisters told the officer that they believed their house was bugged, so they moved into the driveway. The women allegedly began discussing their desire to find a hired gun and offered the cop $1,500, along with guns and ammo, to get rid of Stubbers.
In an “act of good faith,” the affidavit said, the women gave the deputy a loaded handgun. They told the cop they would drive to their bank in Kooskia—about 30 miles away—to withdraw the funds and meet him along State Highway 13 later.
But as the sisters walked back to their home, the deputies who were listening to the conversation moved in to make an arrest.
It’s unclear whether the women have hired counsel. A preliminary hearing in their case is scheduled for Feb. 8.
One former neighbor, Sheila Bowles-Arnzen, told The Daily Beast that the Wensmans are “super-nice ladies” who generally kept a low profile in the community.
“They just ran a simple ranch and a simple farm. Every time I met them, they were super-nice people,” Bowles-Arnzen said.
Bowles-Arnzen said she once owned a bar in the area, and Debra would come in for a cheeseburger and a couple of beers. The women inherited their farm and worked hard, she said, adding, “They’ve had a hard life.”
Another local, who declined to comment on record, said the Wensmans have “been picked on for their looks and their lifestyle.” He suspects it’s due, in part, to female farmers being looked down upon in the male-dominated field.
Meanwhile, Greencreek resident Bo Rose, who is a friend of Stubbers, told The Daily Beast the women didn’t face any harassment from locals.
“I do feel bad for those girls, but as far as anybody in this community harassing them, that is completely untrue and I would take that to my grave,” Rose said. “This is a tight-knit community. All somebody has to do is say, ‘I need help,’ and there’s a dozen people there to help them.”
Rose said the Wensmans believed Stubbers “was trying to make them go broke so he could have their farm.”
“They’ve just totally lost it,” Rose said.
Rose said he’s known the sisters for 20 years and that Debra used to be an EMT. “Debbie used to be out and about quite a bit,” Rose continued, adding that the women “do keep a low profile, especially the last couple years.”
Over the summer, Rose called police after the sisters allegedly pointed a gun at his children.
His sons, ages 10 and 16 at the time, were hauling garbage to some dumpsters on a gravel road where the Wensmans were parked in their pickup.
Rose said that as his 16-year-old son slowly drove around them, one of the Wensmans directed a black pistol in the direction of the 10-year-old passenger. “My youngest son was completely distraught. He has never had a gun pointed right at him,” Rose said.
Rose said he owned an auto repair business in Greencreek and used to bend over backwards for the Wensmans. If they called and had a problem with something, Rose said, he’d send out a mechanic to help them. “Everybody helped them. That’s what made it [the alleged murder plot] so much more bizarre,” he said.
Now that the Wensmans have been released from jail, neighbors in the “unlocked-door community” are worried about their safety, Rose told The Daily Beast.
“They’re leaving all their lights on because everybody’s pretty nervous about what could happen,” Rose said.