Brooks Kellogg, 73, pleads guilty to one murder-for-hire count -- but why so light a sentence?
Last October, 73-year-old Brooks Kellogg, a businessman with roots in Colorado, Kansas and Illinois, was arrested at Denver International Airport after allegedly meeting with what he thought was a hit man to arrange the murder of Stephen Bunyard, who'd won big bucks in one lawsuit against Kellogg and had launched a second one. Kellogg initially pleaded not guilty, but now he's copped a plea for reasons laid out in the agreement on view below.
Kellogg was a major donor to Fort Hays State University in Kansas, and he looked every inch the respectable businessman. But there were troubles behind the scenes. Back in 2004, Bunyard, based in Florida, won a $2.375 million stipulated judgment against Chadwick Real Estate Group, co-owned by Kellogg and Richard Friedman, and its principals. Bunyard followed up this success with another lawsuit, this one asking for $500,000.
Brooks Kellogg as seen in a photo on the State of Kansas website.
That case was set to go to trial on October 20 in Steamboat Springs -- but Kellogg didn't want Bunyard to make it to the courtroom. In the months prior, he began communicating with Barbara Blackmore of Clifton, who'd been in a relationship with him before getting married to a man named Rickie Strong. Kellogg wanted Strong to put Bunyard in the hospital, but that escalated to a more permanent solution -- one Blackmore shared with the law from early on.
The change in plans is spelled out in the following instant message exchange between Kellogg (ID'd as "gvkell" in the affidavit) and Blackmore, who posed as Strong (her address in the affidavit is listed as "bobbielov").
gvkell: without being sarcastic he has brought this on himself
bobbielov: Im not here to judge just to do a job
gvkell: never sure that an asshole goes away when threatened anyway
bobbielov: so you want him dead
gvkell: if that is necessary yes
bobbielov: you got to let me know
bobbielov: i don't like half assed jobs
gvkell: well our thought was to give him a warning but if thats not safe for you to do then the bullet is fine
With plans in place, Kellogg flew to DIA on October 19 and met with a man he thought was Strong, but who was actually an undercover FBI agent ready to record the entire exchange. Kellogg paid him $2,000 in cash and talked about bumping off Bunyard for eleven minutes before an arrest took place, leading to five charges against him.
Sounds like an open-and-shut case, right? But the FBI agent's recording device didn't work, leaving a big hole in the prosecution's evidence against Kellogg. No doubt that was a major factor in the plea agreement, which finds Kellogg admitting to only one count -- Travel in Interstate Commerce in Commission of Murder-For-Hire. Moreover, the feds have agreed to a sentencing recommendation of 72 months, or six years.
That's a substantial stretch for a man in his seventies, but far less than would have been anticipated given the gravity of the original charges. Wonder how different this jolt would have been had the FBI agent's recorder worked...
Page down to read the entire plea agreement, complete with a detailed narrative of the web that ultimately entrapped Brooks Kellogg.