A man who said he served two tours of duty with the Marines in Iraq told police he didn’t believe what he’d heard: An acquaintance was offering to pay him $25,000 to kill an ex-girlfriend and let him watch as he “put a bullet in her head,” according to court documents.
The acquaintance, 62-year-old Keith James Cote, told the Marine veteran he knew he’d killed people before, and thought the deed would be “right up his alley,” an arrest affidavit released Tuesday said. But the combat veteran told police he dismissed the conversation because he couldn’t believe Cote was serious.
Cote, who was charged this week with criminal solicitation to commit capital murder, first approached the Marine on Oct. 7 during a University of Texas football tailgate, the affidavit said. He told the Marine he needed to talk to him about something very serious, and invited him over to his house in North Austin for the Philadelphia Eagles game the next day.
The Marine and his wife went to Cote’s house on Oct. 8, and Cote told him that he needed “dirty work, done dirt cheap,” the affidavit said.
According to the document, Cote asked the man if he knew how to obtain a silencer for a pistol.
“When asked why, (Cote) told (the Marine) he wanted to ‘kill his ex-girlfriend because she is dating a black guy,'” the affidavit said.
Cote then placed $10,000 on a table, and offered to give it to the Marine for the killing, and said he would pay $15,000 more to “watch him put a bullet in her head,” the document said.
The Marine told authorities he initially did not believe Cote was sincere, but Cote texted him over the next two days to ask if he was still on board, the affidavit said.
The veteran, who told Travis County detectives that he would never do anything like that, decided he needed to call authorities because he feared that Cote would find someone willing to kill the woman anyway. He agreed to help investigators watch Cote and gather evidence as he worked with him to plan the killing, the affidavit said.
Authorities listened in as Cote told the Marine — who was wearing a microphone — that he had a specific plan for how he wanted to the woman to die, the affidavit said. Meanwhile, authorities began protective surveillance on the former girlfriend and told her about the case.
When detectives first called the woman, she was suspicious and would not take an investigator’s word that he was a sheriff’s detective.
“This is atypical for a large majority of my phone calls to victims, witnesses and suspects,” the detective said in the affidavit. “But not unusual for someone who lives in fear of further victimization due to domestic violence.”
The first thing the woman asked the detective when she learned about the investigation into Cote was, “Is he alive?”
She said she’d been involved in an abusive relationship with Cote for several years, and would never be able to stop looking over her shoulder as long as he was alive, the affidavit said. She told police he’d treated her like a piece of property when they were together, but she hadn’t physically seen him since 2015.
“When asked why she believed Mr. Cote would want her killed, she confirmed that Mr. Cote is a racist and confirmed that she is now dating a black man. She stated that the only thing Mr. Cote hates more than a black man was a white woman who is with a black man,” the affidavit said.
On Oct. 21, Cote gave the Marine $310 to buy a revolver to use in the killing, and told the man that he would have killed the woman himself if it wasn’t for his “accident,” the affidavit said. The ex-girlfriend told authorities Cote became paralyzed in 2013 after breaking his neck in a fall at a Houston-area strip club.
According to the affidavit, Cote said he would have stabbed the woman in the heart with an ice pick so he could watch her die.
The two men arrived at Cote’s house after driving around the location where the killing was supposed to happen, and toasted to “Starting new lives and good deeds,” the affidavit said, adding that Cote repeated several times that the killing wasn’t about revenge, but “the reckoning.”
“They toasted again (saying) ‘Here’s to ending old problems and building new friends,'” the affidavit said.
Cote was being held at the Travis County Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $1 million. If convicted of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder, a first-degree felony, Cote faces five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
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