Perry County women charged in assault-for-hire plot

SHERMANS DALE, Perry County — Two Perry County women are in custody after being charged with attempting to put together an assault-for-hire plot, according to State Police.

Catherine Kerkeslager, 69, and Katrina Wojciechowski, 36, both of Shermans Dale, are charged with criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy. Police say the potential victims in the case were Wojciechowski’s husband and mother-in-law.

Wojciechowski is Kerkeslager’s daughter, police say.

State Police say their investigation began on August 2, when a Northwest Regional Police officer in Lancaster County contacted State Police to report of a potential murder-for-hire plot.

Northwest Regional Police reported that a Mount Joy, Lancaster County man, Tony Shortt, had contacted them August 1 to report an unsolicited murder-for-hire. Shortt told police that his mother-in-law, who was a friend of Kerkeslager’s, asked him to contact Kerkeslager, who had asked her if she knew of anyone Kerkeslager could hire to kill her son-in-law, Wojciechowski’s husband — or if Shortt would be interested in doing it.

On August 2, Shortt contacted Kerkeslager at the behest of State Police. Kerkeslager allegedly said “she wants to know if you (Shortt) know someone and how much they’d ask.” Shortt replied, “ask for what?”

“To get rid of him,” Kerkeslager allegedly replied, referring to her son-in-law.

At about 5:40 p.m. on August 6, Kerkeslager and Shortt spoke again by telephone. This time, police say, Kerkeslager asked Shortt how much it would cost to assault her son-in-law. Shortt gave her the price of $1,000, with a $100 downpayment. Kerkeslager said she’d check with her daughter, according to the criminal complaint.

About five minutes later, Kerkeslager called back and said her daughter no longer wanted to go through with it.

But later that night, police say, Kerkeslager texted Shortt and said Wojciechowski had changed her mind and now wanted her husband and her mother-in-law assaulted. Kerkeslager and Shortt agreed to meet the next day, according to the criminal complaint.

Kerkeslager and Shortt agreed to meet in the parking lot of a Bass Pro Shops store near the Harrisburg Mall on the afternoon of August 7, according to police. At the meeting, Kerkeslager and Wojciechowski met with an undercover State Police trooper posing as an associate of Shortt’s. Kerkeslager and Wojciechowski gave the trooper $100 and photos of Wojciechowski’s husband and mother-in-law, according to the criminal complaint.

Police say the trooper told Kerkeslager and Wojchechowski that it would look suspicious if both victims were assaulted, and asked them to pick one target. The suspects settled on Wojchechowski’s husband, whom they wanted shot in the leg, police say.

After the meeting, State Police performed a traffic stop and took Kerkeslager and Wojchechowski into custody, according to the criminal complaint. Both admitted to soliciting the murder of Wojchechowski’s husband, then changing their minds and attempting to have Wojchechowski’s husband and mother-in-law assaulted instead.