A trial began Tuesday for a woman accused of trying to eliminate her legal troubles by having the witnesses against her killed, including a Stafford County detective.

Cassie C. Crisano, 39, is being tried this week in Stafford Circuit Court on charges that include three counts of attempted capital murder. Prosecutors Philip Chichester and George Elsasser are trying to prove that Detective Joseph Massine, Crisano’s former friend Terry Linton and Anthony Hopkins, her former live-in boyfriend, were among those on a hit list whose deaths Crisano actively tried to arrange from the Rappahannock Regional Jail.

The murder-for-hire trial is scheduled to last three days. Crisano, a former Prince Georges County, Md., police officer, has two other trials scheduled in Stafford on a multitude of charges ranging from fraud to plotting to burn down the Stafford Public Safety Building.

According to Chichester’s opening statement and court records, Stafford authorities received information last year that Crisano was trying to arrange hits on a number of people, including prosecutors Tara Mooney and Ryan Fitzgerald.

Stafford Sheriff’s detectives then hatched a plan that included placing a confidential informant, Jody Byies, into Crisano’s jail cell. Chichester said Crisano eventually told Byies, who was charged with drug-related offenses, about her desire to have certain people killed. Byies told her that she had a stepson named “Jermaine” who was suitable for the job.

Following a series of contacts, Crisano was informed that the price per hit would be $5,000. A post office box monitored by Detective S.M. Monaghan and wire transfers assisted by Crisano’s teenage son in New York were part of the elaborate scheme.

Prosecutors said Crisano used code language such as “cutting down trees” when discussing the hits on recorded jail phones. Unfortunately for her, prosecutors said, Stafford Detective R. Mervil was the person she was talking to and Monaghan was the one receiving the letters intended for “Jermaine” and others.

Investigators also wired Byies with recording equipment that she used to get incriminating statements from Crisano in the jail cell.

Linton testified Tuesday that he alerted Stafford authorities to illegal activity involving he and Crisano after his arrest in Frederick County for soliciting a minor on the internet. Linton served four months for that offense and had another nine years and eight months suspended.

Linton admitted Tuesday that while working as a fraud investigator for the Navy Federal Credit Union in Winchester, he kept frequent surveillance on Hopkins’ account at the request of Crisano. He also gave her information regarding the accounts of other credit union customers.

Linton was fired from his job after Hopkins complained to credit union officials, who found that Linton had made an unusually high number of inquiries into Hopkins’ account during a short time period.

In May 2017, Crisano reported the theft of multiple items from her home in the Cannon Ridge subdivision in Stafford. She later received a $20,000 check from Allstate insurance as compensation.

Linton talked to police and on Aug. 31, deputies raided the Cannon Ridge home and found a number of items that had been reported stolen. They also found a safe with various identifications of Navy Federal customers with Crisano’s picture, prosecutors said.

Crisano was arrested following that raid and released on bond. Unaware that Linton was the one who set her up, she called him and discussed a plan to burn down the public safety building by throwing Molotov cocktails into it, court records state.

Authorities were waiting when Crisano showed up at a Stafford motel on Sept. 4, 2017, to talk to Linton. She was arrested that night and has been in custody ever since.

Massine and Hopkins, a federal law enforcement officer, also testified Tuesday. Hopkins has a young child with Crisano who was the subject of a custody dispute. Hopkins has been awarded full custody.

Crisano paid $5,000 for the hit on Linton, prosecutors allege, and another $800 toward a second hit. According to prosecutors, investigators fooled Crisano into thinking the hit on Linton had actually been carried out and a state police investigator went to the jail to ask Crisano about Linton’s whereabouts. She refused to talk to him.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Alexander Raymond said that Byies, perhaps the key prosecution witness, is unreliable.

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Keith Epps: 540/374-5404 kepps@freelancestar.com

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