Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Contract Murder of Kathryn Ann Martini-Lissy

A Prostitute Cracks the Case

Among the multitude of people with whom the investigators talked during the lengthy investigation was a person who claimed that Lissy was known to associate with prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, and other dregs of society, and that there was one prostitute who saw Lissy regularly. Police tracked her down; much to their surprise, she told them about a plan Lissy had discussed to hire a killer to strangle a young woman. According to the prostitute, Lissy said that he would pay $5,000 for the killing, and stipulated that it should be carried out to look like a drug deal that had gone bad. In return for immunity from prosecution, the prostitute agreed to be wired with a transmitter and to have her phone calls recorded by police. Had the victim of Lissy's intended contract killing been his wife, Kathy? The cops intended to find out with the help of the prostitute.

David Dean Wilson
David Dean Wilson

In the weeks that followed, the detectives got what they wanted, uncovering a murder-for-hire plot against Lissy's wife which they substantiated with chilling tape recordings that detailed not only the killing itself but linked Lissy to the killer, whom he had agreed to pay $5,000. The alleged hit man, they learned, was 31-year-old David Dean Wilson.

As a result of statements made by numerous witnesses, physical evidence and electronic surveillance by audio wiring and telephone line taps, police traced Lissy to his parents' Lincoln Beach home on the Oregon coast where they arrested him on Friday, October 12, 1984 at approximately 9:00 a.m. David Wilson was simultaneously arrested at his Beaverton, Ore., home. Both men were transported to the Lane County Jail in Eugene. They were held without bail on accusations of aggravated murder as well as additional charges of robbery, rape and sexual abuse in connection with Kathryn Ann Martini-Lissy's death, all in the first-degree.

"This state is alleging that this was a contract killing, a killing for hire...that Lissy contracted for pay with Wilson for the death of Lissy's wife," said J. Pat Horton, Lane County District Attorney.

Lane County District Attorney's office seal
Lane County District Attorney's office seal

Evidence showed that Lissy was "a guy who continually engaged others to do the dirty work, no matter what level of crime it was," said Brian Barnes, the Lane County Deputy District Attorney assigned to prosecute the case.

Barnes and others maintained that Lissy had a history of petty crime, including having his own scuba store equipment stolen so that he could collect on the insurance.

"He worked his way up the ladder of serious this latest one, the biggest fraud of all," Barnes added.

Lissy and Wilson pleaded innocent to the charges.

"I'm absolutely delighted...we're thrilled," said a close friend of the victim's regarding the arrests. "I know the investigation has been intense."

"She was a wonderful, wonderful girl," said one of Michael Lissy's close relatives about Kathy. "And he loved her very much. We all did....The only thing we know is that he is innocent of any wrongdoing in this. The Sunday before she was murdered, they were here and she told me they decided to start their family. They were so happy."

If they had been so happy why, the detectives asked, had Lissy spent so much of his time associating with pimps, prostitutes, and the like?

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