Plainfield murder-for-hire trial gets under way; Accused said to be victim of a plot
By MEGHAN PIERCE Union Leader Correspondent
NEWPORT — The attorney for a Plainfield man accused of conspiring to have his ex-wife murdered says he is the victim of a plot.
The claim came during opening arguments Wednesday in Sullivan County Superior Court at the trial of Maurice Temple, 63. He and his 83-year-old mother, Pauline Chase, both of Plainfield, were arrested July 27 and charged with conspiring to hire Mark Horne to kill Jean Temple, the ex-wife.
Defense attorney Donna Brown said her client is the target of a plot, not the instigator of one.
“Two people were behind the setup and those two people were Mark Horne and Jean Temple,” Brown said.
Mark Horne, a volunteer firefighter and friend of Jean Temple, went to authorities after a June 25 conversation with Chase in which he told police she offered to pay him to kill Jean Temple. This followed her son’s arrest for non-payment of a court-ordered settlement of the couple’s 1999 divorce.
Horne agreed to wear a wire and record conversations with the mother and son. Prosecutors allege Chase later gave Horne a $5,000 down payment and wrote an IOU for another $5,000 if the job was completed.
In court Wednesday, prosecutors argued the recordings show Temple’s complicity. Brown contends the recordings show the opposite — that Temple never plotted to kill his ex-wife.
Horne, Brown said, was in a years-long legal battle with Chase over a piece of property that resulted in Horne having to pay a mortgage each month to Chase on property he believed he already owned.
The defense attorney said Horne also attributed the failure of a horse business to Temple, who had refused to allow riders’ use of trails on the property.
Two days after Temple’s arrest for non-payment in June, Brown said, Horne and the ex-wife met up at a party at the fire department. There, Jean Temple informed Horne of her ex-husband’s arrest for non-payment, Brown said in court Wednesday.
“Mark Horne and Jean Temple were kindred spirits,” Brown asserted. “They were kindred spirits in the dislike of my client, Mr. Temple.”
After leaving the party, Horne called Chase knowing she would be upset her son had been arrested, Brown said.
“He knows how to push her buttons and he does,” the attorney said. “It was the start of the setup.”
Brown said the recordings that prosecutors say prove Temple’s guilt in fact demonstrate her client did not take the idea seriously and instead mocked Horne.
“Horne knows. Horne knows that Maurice Temple wants no part of it because he thinks it’s a joke, thinks it’s not real that some elderly shut-in woman is going to be part of some murder conspiracy,” Brown said.
Last month, Sullivan County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker ruled Chase is mentally incompetent to stand trial and dismissed the indictment against her. He ordered Chase to remain in custody for a 90-day mental health evaluation to determine is she should receive “involuntary treatment” in a state psychiatric hospital.
Temple is being held at the Sullivan House of Correction in Unity in lieu of $1 million cash bail.