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Defendant breaks down at murder-for-hire trial

As a profanity-laced recording of his voice filled a Jackson County Circuit Courtroom Tuesday, outlining a plot to kill the mother of his child, Richard Linwood Guinn dropped his head and cried.

Are you backing out on me? Guinn asks the teen police say he tried to hire to do the job. We arranged it. It's going down. ... You've got to (expletive) do it.

Jurors in the Medford man's murder-for-hire trial heard hours of recorded conversations, most of it between Guinn, 52, and the teen.

Cody Johnson, 17, of Talent, made a call from the Jackson County sheriff's office March 25 after going to authorities with the plot. In the call, Guinn talks about fears that someone could tap their phone conversations and plans for a bike ride so they could scope out the neighborhood where the intended victim lived.

— The woman he wanted dead was Judy Weaver, a Phoenix woman Guinn hired in 1998 to have a child for him.

After their daughter, Riki, was born in May 1999, Weaver alleged the surrogacy agreement was void because the couple didn't use artificial insemination as called for in the agreement, so she wanted to keep the child. The custody battle went to the Oregon Court of Appeals, which granted custody to Weaver in 2001 and ruled that judges don't have to uphold surrogacy agreements that aren't in a child's best interest.

Investigators and prosecutors allege that Guinn, angered by what he felt was an unfair court decision, plotted to have Weaver murdered last spring. He faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and solicitation to commit murder.

He did everything in his power to see she was dead and nothing to try and stop it, said Allan Smith, a Jackson County deputy district attorney, in his opening statement.

Defense attorney Larry Parker doesn't contest the facts of the plot, but said Guinn had a change of heart and renounced the scheme. Guinn called authorities to talk about what was happening and tried to warn Weaver, Parker said.

Smith outlined the plot that started in mid-March when Guinn contacted Cody, a 17-year-old he had met once before. The teen, unsure if the plot was a joke, went along.

Guinn had Cody watch from afar while he picked up his daughter from Weaver at the Wal-Mart store on Crater Lake Highway so the boy could see his intended target. Then he showed the boy Weaver's apartment and parking spot, instructing Cody to shoot her in the back of the head the next week after the custody swap, Smith said. He provided the teen &

36;25 to buy a used .22-caliber gun.

Fearing Guinn was deadly serious, Cody told his father, who contacted Medford police March 24. The officer who got the call couldn't reach Cody for details.

The next day, Cody, on probation for breaking into a school, told his probation officer about the plot, Smith said. Medford police were called again, and Detective Terry Newell began investigating.

Soon convinced Cody was on the level, Newell turned the case over to Jackson County sheriff's Detective Colin Fagan, in whose jurisdiction the case began. He taped Cody's calls to Guinn and Cody wore a body wire to two meetings, March 26-27, generating recordings that became the heart of the case.

In the first roughly hour-long recording garbled with background noise, Guinn reviews the plot to shoot Weaver in the head, advises Cody about the risk from forensic investigations and promises to pay the teen &

36;1,000 from a tax refund and ongoing payments equal to his child support. The total amount promised was &

36;35,000.

In the second brief meeting at Medford's south Fred Meyer store on the evening the murder was to happen, Guinn gave Cody a packet of nine bullets, oiled to avoid fingerprints.

Police watching Guinn's Fontaine Circle home arrested him in his driveway March 27 at about the time the murder was to happen. In a videotaped interview sometimes disjointed and rambling, Guinn tells police about his anger at not having his child and discusses what should happen to evil people. He also weeps.

Guinn confirms that he paid someone to threaten or harm Weaver.

The trial continues today, with Parker set to detail Guinn's defense in the afternoon.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4459, or e-mail