But he had no authority in the case. Now he raced to the Allwines' home. As he entered through the garage, the aroma of roasting pumpkin, still in the slow cooker, hit his nose.
This struck him as odd; people don't typically start cooking right before killing themselves. Other things about the scene were off: There were blood smears on both sides of the bedroom door. And while the mud room floor was covered with dog hair, the floor in the adjacent hall was clean.
The aroma of roasting pumpkin struck him as odd. People don't typically start cooking right before killing themselves. As McAlister waited for the medical examiner and state criminal investigators to arrive, an officer drove Stephen and his son to the station. As a colleague sat with the boy in the station's break room, Raymond escorted Stephen to the same interview room where he and Silkey had met with Amy five months earlier.
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Raymond pulled on a pair of latex gloves and swabbed Stephen's cheek for DNA. He asked Stephen to run through what he had done that day. Stephen was cooperative, though Raymond thought his demeanor was wooden for a man who had just lost his wife. He reminded the detective that Amy had an FBI file; he said that her computer had been acting strangely.
For the next three days, investigators combed the crime scene. State technicians sprayed a chemical called luminol on the floors, then flicked off the lights. Where the luminol hit blood or cleaning solution, it glowed bright blue. The glow showed that the hallway had been cleaned; it also lit up some footprints leading back and forth from the bedroom to the laundry room.
The Cottage Grove police executed a search warrant on the house. McAlister stationed himself at the dining room table, logging evidence. Raymond descended to Stephen's basement office.
Stepping through the door, he saw every surface covered with junk: file folders, tangles of cords, external drives, SD cards, a voice recorder, and a Fitbit. There were hard drives of a type that hadn't been used in nearly a decade. Sixty-six in all. Because the crime involved a local death, the Cottage Grove police took control of the investigation.
Two and a half weeks after Amy died, the FBI sent over her file. When the police opened the documents, McAlister and Raymond saw—for the first time—the full Besa Mafia messages. That was when they learned that the person who wanted Amy dead went by the name dogdaygod. By this point, Stephen was a suspect, but there was no direct evidence linking him to the murder. That his DNA was on everything was hardly remarkable; it was his house.
'A rich buffet of nonsense.'
Video from the Allwines' security system revealed nothing abnormal, though the records were incomplete. Stephen explained that he and Amy had neglected to activate the camera over the sliding glass door because their dogs were constantly going in and out. McAlister hoped the answers might be inside the devices that Raymond had lugged out of the Allwines' basement.
From the moment the Besa Mafia files appeared in the pastebin, bloggers had concluded that the site was a scam.
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One after another, Yura's clients complained that the hits they'd ordered hadn't been carried out. But McAlister didn't want to take anything for granted. He and Detective Jared Landkamer identified 10 other targets of Besa Mafia orders in the United States and contacted the police departments where they lived. They might get leads in their case or perhaps save other lives. McAlister divvied up the electronic work. He sent the computers to a digital forensics specialist at a neighboring police department. Landkamer subpoenaed the Allwines' emails—and then spent many long days reading them. Raymond started by extracting data from Stephen's phones.
In a windowless room lined with department-issue monitors, he deployed software that sorted the data—apps here, call logs there—and reconstructed timelines for the devices. He also found text messages containing confirmation codes from LocalBitcoins. The FBI seemed to have either missed them or paid them little mind. When he scanned Amy's phone, he could see that, on the day of her death, she seemed to be growing progressively more confused.
At pm she visited the Wikipedia page for vertigo. In an interview with a state investigator, Stephen had confessed to his affair with Woodard.
Sodium Benzoate Nonsense
Stephen's call history confirmed that he had phoned for roadside assistance that day from a Wendy's in Minneapolis. The detectives used the text message confirmation codes on Stephen's phone to find his LocalBitcoins account.
That wasn't incriminating on its own, but it did suggest a motive. While Stephen had cloaked most of his criminal activity, he did not purge his more innocuous internet search history. One day later, he looked up their life insurance policy. In July, shortly before Amy received the first threatening email that included addresses gleaned from Radaris, he visited the Radaris pages for Amy's family members. Murder was rare in Cottage Grove, and the detectives, confronted with circumstantial evidence and the slipperiness of the dark web, obsessed over the case. When he saw the results, he called out to his wife.
The search engine had indexed some posts on Dream Market, the dark-web marketplace where drugs were sold. Landkamer immediately texted McAlister what he'd found. McAlister fired up Tor on his personal laptop and pulled up the full threads on Dream Market. In one thread, dogdaygod asked if anyone sold scopolamine, a powerful prescription drug. McAlister had worked as a paramedic, so he knew that scopolamine was prescribed for motion sickness, but it could also make people pliable and amnesiac, earning it the nickname Devil's Breath.
As he scrolled down, he came to a comment from a user who assumed that dogdaygod wanted to use scopolamine recreationally.
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It's dangerous as fuck and you WILL kill someone. Later, Amy's gastric contents tested positive for scopolamine. But it was a quirk in Apple backups that provided the strongest piece of evidence. The digital forensics specialist from a neighboring department found, archived in Stephen's MacBook Pro, that a note with a bitcoin wallet address had appeared on Stephen's iPhone back in March This was 23 seconds before dogdaygod frantically wrote Yura with the same digit bitcoin wallet code.
Forty seconds after dogdaygod messaged Yura, the note was deleted from Stephen's phone. But deleted files don't disappear until they're overwritten by other files. Several months later, when Stephen backed up his phone to iTunes, the crucial history was preserved on his laptop. McAlister was elated. The detectives had linked Stephen's offline persona, a church elder concerned with the propriety of dance moves, with his online ones—the philanderer and the aggrieved would-be murderer.
The enticing anonymity of the dark web that nurtured Stephen's crime had given him a sense of omnipotence. He failed to appreciate that this cloak of power didn't follow him to the clear web and to the real world. Stephen Allwine's trial lasted for eight days. County prosecutors paraded a string of colorful witnesses to the stand: the manager of the pawn shop where Stephen sold his silver, the Backpage escort in Iowa, and Woodard. Prosecutors Fred Fink and Jamie Kreuser used the testimony to outline a theory: Stephen had poisoned Amy with a large dose of scopolamine, either to kill or incapacitate her.
Either way, while she grew dazed and light-headed, she didn't die. So Stephen shot her with their gun in the hallway.
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Then he moved the body into the bedroom and cleaned up the blood. When he left to get gas and take his son to Culver's, he was careful to save the receipts.
The jury deliberated for six hours before finding Stephen guilty. On February 2, he appeared in a packed courtroom for sentencing. One by one, friends and family told the judge how much Amy had meant to them. Amy's family declined to be interviewed. Then Stephen rose to plead his case. The anonymity of the dark web that nurtured Allwine's crime had given him a sense of omnipotence.
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