Locked up for armed robbery, police say, Paul Bond hatched a plan: Hire a hit man to kill the victim.
The goal: eliminate the key witness. The manner: make it look like a drug overdose.
The asking price: $500.
“Insulting, to be sure,” the alleged target, a 70-year-old woman, said recently outside her apartment in Gaithersburg, Md. “My life is worth much more than 500 measly dollars.”
She let out a chuckle, saying the purported rate was the one thing she could laugh about.
“When I learned there was a hit on me, I was scared to death, and I still am,” said the retired secretary from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who out of fear of associates of Bond asked not to be named.
In court documents, Montgomery County police say they stopped the scheme after learning about it from a prospective hit man Bond had contacted through his girlfriend. Detectives then intercepted and recorded at least one telephone call between the girlfriend and the potential hit man, delved into the case and moved in on Bond and his girlfriend.
Late in June, Bond, 44, was indicted on counts including conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and soliciting to make that killing happen. Investigators say he had placed dozens of calls from the Montgomery County Correctional Facility to the girlfriend, Karen Diolamou, also 44, planning the hit and giving instructions to pass along to an assassin.
Diolamou also was indicted on murder conspiracy and solicitation counts.
Police were stunned by their findings. “An attack against a key witness is an attack against the whole system,” said Capt. Paul Starks, a police spokesman.
An attorney for Diolamou, James Peters, said he has entered a plea of not guilty on his client’s behalf and that none of the solicitation efforts were her idea. “Generally speaking, we believe her culpability to be minimum and Mr. Bond to be the ringleader,” Peters said. “For whatever reason, Mr. Bond seems to have some psychological hold over her.”
“Honestly, she’s normally a good person,” added Diolamou’s mother, Adele Booth. “Why she did this, I don’t know. I think he influenced her.”
Allen Wolf, the county’s head public defender whose office is representing Bond, said their client will plead not guilty. Wolf declined to discuss the case further, as did Assistant Public Defender Sean McKee, who is assigned to the case. “Until he gets a chance to review what the state is claiming, we have no comment,” Wolf said.
Bond grew up in the Washington area, dropped out of high school and worked as a carpenter and barber. For years he abused alcohol, cocaine and painkillers, according to court records, and racked up convictions that put him in and out of jail for drug dealing, petty theft, battery and more.
That past came to a head in court several years ago, when Bond appeared before Montgomery Circuit Judge Steven Salant to be sentenced for breaking into his neighbor’s house, rummaging through her jewelry and trying unsuccessfully to hide in the attic when officers and a police dog showed up.
Bond told Salant that he was done with drugs and crime.
“Sometimes you’ve got to know when to throw in the towel,” he said.
Bond served about half of his six-year sentence before collecting enough good-time credits to be released from prison last fall. He got a job at a garbage-hauling company and settled into an apartment in Silver Spring. On a weekend night in April, he called the 70-year-old woman, whom he knew through a mutual acquaintance.
In an interview on the terrace-level landing outside her apartment, the woman recalled the events that followed. Her account was confirmed by sworn affidavits filed in court by detectives; her employment history was confirmed by a NOAA spokesman.
She said that on the phone call, Bond offered to sell her pot. “I said no,” she recalled.
A short time later, just before 1 a.m., she answered her door, assuming the knock was from a friend who had just left. Instead, she was face-to-face with a man wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt that concealed everything but his nose and mouth. He drew a deep breath, pushed an open hand into her face and forced her back onto her floor, according to the woman and the affidavits.
“Is that you, Paul?” she recalled asking, drawing no response.
The man pulled a knife.
“I’ll cut you. Stay on the ground!” he yelled, according to the investigators.
A second intruder entered and rifled her purse, snagging a PNC Bank debit card. Both ran from the apartment building. Dazed, the woman got up, looked for her phone to call 911, realized it had been stolen and ran outside, yelling, ‘I was robbed! I was robbed!” detectives wrote in their affidavits.
On a neighbor’s phone, she called her son, who she said used a phone-locator App to guide investigators to the discarded iPhone a half-mile away. Near it, investigators found a gray sweatshirt.
Within days, they had spoken to more witnesses. Court filings indicate that they arrested Bond, accusing him of being the intruder who had ransacked the purse, and also arrested Jeffrey Rall, 46, of Rockville, saying he had been the intruder who forced the victim onto the floor. Both were charged with home invasion, first-degree assault and armed robbery.
Isabelle Raquin, Rall’s attorney, declined to comment on the charges.
From jail, police say, Bond placed dozens of calls to his girlfriend to discuss ways out of the jam before June 1, the approximate deadline for prosecutors to gauge the strength of their case and whether to pursue it.
“He directed her to have the victim in the home invasion robbery murdered; specifically he wanted that victim to ‘disappear,’ ” Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Christina Rodriguez said in court in May.
Bond also told Diolamou to call a mutual acquaintance to discuss the for-hire killing, Rodriguez said. That man “became concerned about the request” and called detectives, according to court filings. Police met with him and proceeded to record at least one phone call between him and Diolamou, Rodriguez said during a hearing in Bond’s case.
“She agreed upon a price of $500 for the victim to be murdered,” Rodriguez added.
Diolamou also texted the man to convey the victim’s address, physical appearance and car description, according to court papers.
Investigators picked up Diolamou and she admitted to taking part in the murder-for-hire discussions with Bond, according to police.
Bond and Diolamou remain jailed on no-bail status and are scheduled to be tried in the case in early December, according to court records.
Their alleged target, meanwhile, says she could use stress counseling. “My doctor told me to see a shrink,” she said. “I’ve been procrastinating.”
It is terrifying, she said, to think she was the purported object of a murder scheme to silence her in court.
But at night, it is the first incident — and the intruders who forced their way into her apartment — that she dwells on.
“When I close my eyes,” she said, “I see that hoodie.”