Michael Stewart of Monroe Township, Middlesex County, received a near-maximum sentence this week under a plea agreement for orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot targeting his ex-wife and her daughter. Stewart will serve almost the entire sentence due to the absence of parole in the federal prison system.
Believing he had found a trustworthy accomplice, Stewart sought help in locating someone he could pay to carry out the murders. To communicate with the contact and others, he frequently traveled to Baltimore and used a cellphone while out of state, according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
In a surprising turn of events, Stewart met with an undercover law enforcement officer wearing a wire in October 2021. The FBI complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Newark details how Stewart expressed his desire to have his ex-wife’s daughter killed first, blaming her for initiating the situation. He insisted the murder be carried out discreetly and requested a six-month gap before his ex-wife’s murder.
Stewart admitted he could not commit the murders himself due to a lack of a plausible alibi, as per the FBI complaint. Instead, he provided the investigator with a photo of his ex-wife, a property layout, and details about the vehicles the women drove. Stewart also handed over $500 in cash as a down payment for the heinous task.
Choosing to accept a deal from the government rather than risk a guilty verdict after trial, Stewart pleaded guilty in September. U.S. District Judge Julien Xavier Neals sentenced Stewart on Tuesday, May 2nd.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited FBI special agents for the investigation that led to the plea and sentence, which was secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Olta Bejleri of his Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.