Depending on how you look at it, Mary Ellen Samuels’ plot to kill her husband tumbled into the realm of a Coen Brothers movie when she decided to hire a small army of hitmen to get the job done.
The motive wasn’t complex: She stood to receive $500,000 in the event of his death. After spending two years waiting for the guy to be hit by a passing meteorite, she decided the universe was taking way too long to reward her with her fortune and hired a hitman to kill her unsuspecting husband. Unfortunately, the hitman she hired, James Bernstein, just couldn’t manage to get it done. After three failed attempts to snuff the dude out, Bernstein did what any stressed-out freelancer would do – he outsourced the job. Meaning, he hired another guy to do the murdering for him.
Either the second hitman was a savant or Bernstein was a complete moron, because he managed to get the job done with slightly more than zero effort – he simply walked into the Samuels’ home and shot Mary Ellen’s husband.
With her husband (finally) out of the way, Mary Ellen got her money and embarked on a post-murder shopping spree, splurging on, as the L.A. Times reported, “fake fur coats, trips to Las Vegas, and custom-made outfits from a store called Trashy Lingerie” (all the while failing to pay for her dead husband’s headstone). When the cops inevitably came knocking, Mary Ellen hired two more hitmento kill Bernstein, to get rid of all the loose ends tying her to her husband’s murder. As zany as her plan was, it might have actually worked, had she been able to resist keeping Bernstein’s wallet as a trophy. (You may recognize hanging on to an incriminating piece of evidence as a “loose end.” Congratulations! You’re better at murder than Mary Ellen Samuels was.)