GRANGEVILLE – Jury trials are tentatively set this fall for two Cottonwood sisters charged with attempting to hire individuals to murder their neighbor.
Debra Wensman, 50, and Doris Wensman, 46, were arraigned in Idaho County District Court last Friday, Feb. 22, where each entered a plea of “not guilty” to felony charges of criminal solicitation to commit murder.
While Debra faces one count, Doris is charged with two; one related to the alleged attempt the pair made with an undercover law enforcement officer, and a prior incident that started the investigation where she allegedly solicited a local resident to commit the crime.
At their arraignment, the Wensmans were represented by privately retained Boise attorneys Randall Scott Barnum and Jolene C. Maloney. Trial dates are set Sept. 9 for the Wensmans jointly shared charge, and Sept. 30 for Doris’ second count.
The Wensmans are currently out of custody on $100,000 bail each. Maximum penalties for criminal solicitation to commit murder are 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Charges against the sisters resulted from two incidents in January near Greencreek. According to court records, Doris is alleged to have approached Ryan Mader, who was delivering oil to her home on Wensman Road early that month, to kill her neighbor, Edward Stubbers. Mader reported the incident to the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, who sent in Deputy Sam Augello undercover to determine whether the pair was serious about the murder contract. According to court records, the Wensmans met with Augello Jan. 24, during which the sisters allegedly offered the deputy cash and a firearm to commit the murder. ICSO personnel were monitoring the conversation, and shortly after went in, arresting the pair without incident.
According to Free Press coverage, the suspected cause for the solicitation attempts was the Wensmans believed they were being harassed and spied upon by their neighbors, with the intent to get them to leave their property.
The second solicitation charge against Doris was filed Feb. 6. According to Idaho County Prosecutor Kirk MacGregor, this came as a result of reviewing the overall case and, finding these were two separate solicitation events, the additional charge was warranted.
The Wensmans have waived their right to a speedy trial, within the six-month time period. In discussions with the court and counsels, trial dates have been set that work with their schedules and available dates.
Presiding at arraignment was district judge Gregory FitzMaurice. At the close of the nearly half-hour arraignment, Judge FitzMaurice noted his disclosure to counsels in the case of his potential knowledge of the alleged victim and his family in this matter. While he does not believe himself to be prejudiced to sit as a fair jurist in the matter, he said “in the interests of fairness and justice, and also the perception of justice,” he would step down from the case if they desired. This request would have to be made to the court by this Friday, March 1, at which point administrative judge Jay Gaskill would appoint a new jurist to preside over the case.