MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) - A former Muskegon County assistant prosecutor with decades of experience said the details of a Muskegon woman's attempt to have her husband murdered are surreal even to him.
Julia Merfeld, 21, of Muskegon pleaded guilty last month to solicitation of murder and is expected to spend at least six years in prison. Monday, the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office released video of two April meetings between Merfeld and an undercover detective posing as a hit man.
Brett Gardner spent 29 years in the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office. For 24 of those, he was the chief assistant prosecutor. Now, he's now a professor at Cooley Law School.
He said he has never seen video as chilling and telling as that of Merfeld, a mother of two, casually working out the specifics of her husband's murder.
"It's clear what her intention is," Gardner said. "Her intention is to make sure her husband is killed and she doesn't appear to have any concern."
"Really, whatever is easiest. If you can get him outside that would be great," Merfeld says in the video.
Merfeld also asked the so-called hit man to keep it clean so it wouldn't ruin her plans to have her girlfriend move in afterwards. With a laugh, she said conducting the murder in the house "would be messy."
"And her laughter isn't nervous," Gardner said as he watched the video. "This appears to be funny to her."
Gardner says the roll of the undercover officer is critical to making the case, but it's not easy. The officers need experience and training to make the evidence stick in court. In this case, the officer let Merfeld do most of the talking to prove intent.
"He's not prompting. He's just listening to what she has to say. And she has no problem offering how she wants it done, when she wants it done and how she wants it done," Gardner said.
Gardner said protecting the officer's identity is priority number one -- not just for the case, but for his safety as well. But says there is value in making the video public.
"This establishes and shows viewers just how cold and callous a person can be. Because just reading about it doesn't cover it. You have to actually see to understand it an know that people really do these things," he said.
A woman from Mount Pleasant died after her SUV crashed on a road in Montcalm County.
Mirror parts found at the scene indicate it may be a 2005 Chevrolet Uplander.
An observation survey was conducted by the Wayne State University Transportation Research Group.