The ex-boyfriend of a former US Marine who allegedly paid a hitman to kill him has told the dramatic story of how he faked his own death.
Brad Sutherland said he learned he had been targeted for assassination by Laura Buckingham, 29, a combat veteran who served twice in Iraq and who is also the mother of their son.
So he took part in his own mock murder in a garage as part of a police sting operation to make Ms Buckingham, of New Albany, Louisville, Kentucky, believe he was dead.
“[The hired killer] was supposed to either do it when I left for work or on my way home,” Mr Sutherland told The Daily Beast.
“When they brought me down to the police station and [first] told me about this, the first thing I said is, ‘I’m being punked.’”
Ms Buckingham wanted to end a custody battle with Mr Sutherland over their three-year-old son, according to ABC News.
She is alleged to have first asked her new boyfriend Joseph Chamblin, an ex-army sniper who was disgraced in 2011 when he was filmed urinating on a dead Taliban soldier, to take Mr Sutherland’s life.
Ms Buckingham is then accused of paying $3,000 (about £2,000) to a ‘hitman’ recommended by Mr Chamblin, allegedly telling the contract killer “I want him gone".
However, the hitman was in fact an undercover agent at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, who had been informed of the alleged plot by Mr Chamblin.
The agent, still posing as a hitman, is said to have returned to Ms Buckingham with photographic evidence of Mr Sutherland’s ‘death’.
Soon afterwards, the ex-Marine was arrested and charged with criminal intent to commit first-degree murder.
Ms Buckingham had become a baker in Indiana after working for eight years in the military, and had even been on the cover of a local magazine in a feature about her new life as owner of a bakery called Bread and Breakfast.
She has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and is currently on bail awaiting a hearing on 2 May.
When told how much Ms Buckingham was willing to pay to end his life, Mr Sutherland said, "Are you fucking kidding me? My life’s only worth $3,000?”, according to the Daily Beast.
“[It's] like bring us your tax cheque and we’ll get you a car – only this is more like bring us your tax cheque and we’ll assassinate your ex-fiancé."