An environmental compliance specialist pining for a hiking buddy she met on Match.com allegedly tried to have his new wife snuffed out by a hitman she attempted to hire online.
“I hope you fall off a cliff and die,” Melody Sasser blurted out when retired Department of Energy emergency manager and Air Force vet David Wallace told her last fall that he was engaged to another woman.
Sasser, 47, allegedly stalked Wallace’s wife using a fitness app, sending updates on her precise location, along with the dates and times of her movements, to a bogus murder-for-hire service she found on the dark web.
That’s according to a criminal complaint unsealed last week in Knoxville, Tennessee federal court and obtained by The Daily Beast. Sasser, who worked for the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, placed an order via the “Online Killers Market,” a now-defunct scam site that purported to provide services such as “kidnapping, extortion, disfigurement by acid attack, and sexual violence,” in addition to straight-forward killing, the complaint states.
“This is a personal matter unrelated in any way to Pilot Company’s business,” company spokeswoman Stephanie Myers said in an email. “We are taking all appropriate measures and cooperating fully to assist law enforcement with this matter. All further inquiries should be directed to the proper authorities.”
Sasser is “no longer employed” with Pilot Flying J, Myers said.
Trying to hire a hitman online is almost guaranteed to fail, as past cases have regularly shown. The owner of a satirical business called Rent-A-Hitman.com, with a website that is clearly a gag, has a direct line to the FBI and reports all requests that appear to be serious threats. It is unclear if Online Killers Market is also meant to be a joke, but it has been described previously as a “sham.” Still, people continue to fall for both.
Authorities were first made aware of Sasser’s alleged scheme on April 27, when an unnamed foreign law enforcement agency notified the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative arm that Jennifer Wallace was the target of an assassination plot.
The overseas investigators discovered messages between a user in the U.S. named “cattree” and the administrator of the Online Killers Market, according to the complaint. The first, dated Jan. 11, 2023, included Jennifer’s full name and address in Prattville, Alabama, along with an escrow payment of 0.4179 Bitcoin, or roughly $7,500 at the time.
“It needs to seem random or accident. or plant drugs, do not want a long investigation,” cattree allegedly wrote in her request to Online Killers Market, along with an attached photograph of Jennifer. “She recently moved in with her new husband. she works at home and in [an] office in birmingham.”
The message also included a description of the couple’s cars, along with their license plate numbers.
“[H]er husband works at publix part time they have three dogs that bark and jump but nice dogs,” the message said.
The couple’s names are redacted in court papers.
Sasser and Wallace met on Match.com, when he and his future wife also lived in Knoxville, according to the complaint. It does not say if the relationship became romantic, but does say the two became hiking friends. Social media posts reviewed by The Daily Beast show Wallace and Sasser hiking together throughout 2020, often in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Sasser is listed on a website for the “900 Miler Club,” for people who have hiked all 150 trails in the park.) When Wallace hiked the Appalachian trail, Sasser “assisted” him by “making reservations at known hostels and other rest points and took care of his vehicle,” the complaint states.
But when she showed up unannounced in the fall of 2022 at Wallace’s new home in Alabama, he told her he and Jennifer were preparing to marry. Sasser didn’t take the news well, responding by wishing death on the pair, according to the complaint.
In December, Sasser decided to do something about it, the complaint alleges. However, Sasser, whom investigators say they ID’d as cattree, became frustrated with Online Killers Market when they failed to murder Jennifer quickly enough, the messages allegedly show. Prosecutors say Sasser messaged the site administrator asking why the hit had not yet been carried out.
She allegedly inquired several times about the status of the job, arguing in a March 22 message that she had been waiting “2 months and 11 days and the job is not completed. 2 weeks ago you said it was been worked on and would be done in a week. the job is still not done. does it need to be assigned to someone else. will it be done. what is the delay. when will it be done.”
An Online Killers Market representative wrote back, telling cattree, “Hello, she is not aware. He just failed as he did not attempted it yet, he felt like is too risky for him to do it Regards admin.”
Cattree then began sharing location data, messaging the admin, “yesterday she worked from home and went for a 2 mile walk by herself. assign to another that can complete the job.”
In response, the admin offered “two other hitmen that I can assign on the job,” according to the complaint. One wanted 0.49 Bitcoin, while the other was asking for 0.485 to do the deed. Cattree went with the cheaper option, promising to add the additional funds to the escrow account.
Investigators dug into Sasser’s activities, and checked automated license plate readers to see where she had been. On Nov. 9 and 14, 2022, Sasser’s 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe was clocked in the immediate vicinity of Jennifer’s office, according to the complaint.
Federal agents confronted Jennifer with the news that her life was in danger, and she immediately suggested Sasser was likely cattree, according to the complaint. She said Sasser and David, her husband, “were hiking friends in Knoxville, TN prior to [David] moving to Alabama,” it goes on. Sasser showed up at David’s door last year, unannounced, and said she wished death upon him for marrying Jennifer, the complaint states, noting that Jennifer’s car had been damaged around that same time by an “unknown perpetrator [who] gashed the sides of her vehicle with what appeared to be a key.”
After her car was damaged, Jennifer also told investigators that she began receiving “threatening phone calls,” apparently from someone using computer generated phone numbers that are “untraceable,” the complaint states.
Jennifer said she and her husband tracked their hikes and walks with Strava, a GPS-enabled app that uploads users’ activity to the internet. The location information sent to the purported hitman matched exactly the data in Jennifer and David’s Strava accounts, leading them to suspect Sasser was using the accounts to keep tabs on them.
The local PD was notified, and a patrol car was stationed outside the Wallaces’ home for their safety.
Investigators also followed the money, subpoenaing Coinhub, which operates the Bitcoin ATM that cattree used to send payment to the escrow account. The company responded with transaction data and customer info that identified Sasser as cattree, according to the complaint. She had purchased Bitcoin with cash on at least four occasions at Coinhub ATMs in Knoxville, after which she sent the funds to a digital wallet controlled by Online Killers Market, the complaint states, and the phone number cattree provided to complete the transactions was Sasser’s.
“The Coinhub ATM captures photographs of each user during each transaction,” the complaint continues. “The photographs assigned to the four transactions match Sasser’s Tennessee driver’s license picture and her open-source Facebook profile picture.”
At one point, the feds attempted to lure Sasser into a sting, with an undercover agent contacting her on WhatsApp, but she didn’t respond to the message, the complaint states. In all, Sasser wired a total of $9,750 to the Online Killers Market for the hit that never happened, according to the complaint.
Sasser was finally arrested on May 18 and remanded to custody, according to court filings. She remains detained, pending a court appearance scheduled for June 8.
Sasser’s attorney, M. Jeffrey Whitt, told The Daily Beast, “I have been representing citizens accused of crimes for 32 years across this state, and this is certainly not the first prosecution I’ve faced alleging some type of murder for hire scheme. Our investigation is in its infancy as I was only retained within the last week. As such, I find it premature to comment on the facts of this case until such time as each of the allegations have been vetted and such future responses are in accordance with our state rules restricting public comments during pending prosecutions.”
Reached by text message, the Wallaces viewed, but did not respond to, an interview request.
A search warrant apparently related to the case, for a USPS Priority Mail parcel, remains under seal.
If convicted on the murder-for-hire charge, Sasser faces up to 10 years in prison.