Deputies: Woman tried to hire hit man to kill kids’ father

Sheriff's Office says suspect was angry about who got custody of children

Kristina Marie Johnston's mug shot. (Courtesy Ionia County Sheriff's Department)
Kristina Marie Johnston's mug shot. (Courtesy Ionia County Sheriff's Department)


IONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An Ionia County woman allegedly tried to hire someone to kill a man because she was angry about the custody battle over their children.

Kristina Marie Johnston, 28, was arraigned on Nov. 4 on one count of solicitation of murder, according to a news release from the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office says it got a tip that from someone who knows both Johnston and the intended victim, the father of Johnston’s two children. Detectives, along with from FBI Violent Crimes Task Force and Michigan State Police investigators, then set up a sting operation using an undercover police officer posing as a hit man. That officer had conversations via text message and in person with Johnston, authorities say.

“To qualify for a solicitation of murder charge, you have to actually have a money transfer or any offer of money being transferred,” sheriff’s office Detective Phillip Hesche explained.

Hesche said Johnston offered to pay thousands of dollars for the hit. The detective did not say how she plotted to have the father of her children killed.

“When children are involved in this case, it looked like it may have been spurred mostly by custody,” Hesche said.

Johnston was arrested on Nov. 4 at her home in the Village of Palo. She is being held at the Ionia County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

“I guess I can’t speak for exactly what goes through somebody’s head, but I think that there is maybe a preconceived notion that it’s an easy thing to have done or it’s easy to find somebody to do this type of thing for you,” Hesche said.

The father of Johnston’s children did not want to go on camera or be identified, but told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday that the two were never married.

A neighbor who said Johnston was previously evicted from her apartment in Ionia.

“She put a cigarette, a lit cigarette into the wall and then she would throw cigarettes down on my son’s pool,” neighbor Tina Smyth said.

Johnston’s former landlord was not surprised to hear she had been arrested in a murder-for-hire plot.

“No, not at all,” he said. “She’s nuts.”