Man admits to seeking hitman to kill adopted children’s biological parents in Hoosick Falls

A Utah man has admitted to trying to arrange the murder of two Rensselaer County residents who are the biological parents of his five adopted children.

Christopher Pence, 43, of Cedar City, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to using the internet to solicit and pay for the murders of the two Hoosick Falls residents.

The motive stemmed from an escalating dispute between the two families. The intended victims desired to regain custody of their children and reported Pence’s family to local child welfare authorities, which angered him. Also, they disagreed over how the children should be raised or the personal choices and lifestyle of the intended victims, court documents said.

Pence used the Darknet to solicit someone to kill the two people in exchange for $16,000 in Bitcoin, prosecutors said.

A source tipped off the FBI Knoxville Field Office about Pence’s activity on the website and they forwarded the information to the Albany FBI Field Office.

The source said they interacted with Pence and the site administrator online. The suspect provided the names, addresses and photographs of the intended victims and said the killing should be made to look like an accident or botched robbery, according to prosecutors.

Investigators also were able to trace the Bitcoin payments to an IP address associated with an account Pence maintained.

Police also interviewed the intended targets, who recognized the photographs provided to the Darknet, which were the same as those provided to Pence and his family for use as a “baby book.”

The victims were not harmed.

Pence was arrested on Oct. 27, 2021 after police obtained a warrant to search his residence. They interviewed Pence, who he admitted to the crimes. He has been held in custody since that time.

Pence will be sentenced on April 2 in U.S. District Court in Utica and faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The FBI investigated this case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emmet J. O’Hanlon is handling the prosecution.