"A man being transported to Waukesha to face a murder-for-hire charges in the murder of an Oconomowoc woman made a daring escape in Arkansas early Wednesday, and a manhunt is under way for him. "
Justin P. Welch, 26, [pictured above] escaped while being transported. He is armed and extremely dangerous . Yesterday he stabbed a guard, took his weapon and fired at a second guard at a rest area on I-40 in Van Buren, Arkansas. He then hijacked the prisoner transport van and fled east on the interstate.
It is a white Dodge van with Mississippi license plates and "North Atlantic Extradition Services" on its side. I-40 goes through North Little Rock. It's possible that Welch is trying to flee to Mexico, according to authorities.
He was arrested and charged with the murder for hire stabbing death of Kimberly Smith on Oct. 1,2009 in her Oconomowoc Wisconsin home.
According to the criminal complaint, 3 men Justin Welch, Darren M. Wold, 41, of Lubbock, Texas, and Jack E. Johnson, 65, of Mexico and formerly of Waukesha, WI, conspired to kill Kimberly Smith, who was in a bitter custody dispute with Wold over their 4-year-old son.
Wold and Johnson are charged with first-degree intentional homicide, party to a crime.
Kimberly Smith's body was found Oct. 1, 2009 in the living room of her Oconomowoc home, according to criminal complaints filed against the three men. Her hands were bound with ribbon, and she had been stabbed eight times, court records state.
Her son was in the house at the time of the slaying but did not witness it, according to police.
The complaint against Wold details how he funneled at least $900 through Johnson, a longtime friend, to pay for Welch to fly to Milwaukee in late September under an alias to kill Smith.
The plot followed increasingly vocal complaints by Wold to co-workers about his ongoing contested child custody issues with Smith, at one point telling a co-worker "I wish I could find someone to hire to kill my ex," the complaint says.
Police found a knife and a pair of medical-style gloves in a storm drain near Smith's home. The knife, missing from a set of cutlery in Smith's home, and gloves were used in the slaying, authorities say. DNA evidence found inside the gloves and a fingerprint connected the gloves to Welch, of California.
Police said a warrant for Welch's arrest has been issued in Arkansas on charges of attempted capital murder; first degree escape; aggravated robbery, theft, second-degree battery and kidnapping.