published Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Murder-for-hire suspect willing to pay $300, police say

  • photo
    Sharon Zurconett, 54, is accused of conspiracy to commit first degree murder.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A Soddy-Daisy woman had only $300 to spare, but she was willing to pay that and possibly more to make sure the girlfriend of the man she loved was "gotten rid of," police say.

Sharon Zurconett, 54, was arrested Tuesday after police said she hatched a plot to have someone kill a woman who was "having an affair with her old man," the Chattanooga police report states.

As of Wednesday, Zurconett was in custody at Silverdale Correctional Facility on a charge of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Her bond is set at $10,000.

Gary Cooper said he's the "old man" referenced in the report, though he insists he's never had a serious relationship with Zurconett -- who he said told people they were engaged or married when neither are true.

In fact, Cooper said, the woman who was the target of the "hit" is his fiancée. She did not want her name used.

"Sharon doesn't want to see me with any other woman," Cooper said Wednesday. "She's made threats before. But I was somewhat shocked when I heard she did that. I didn't think she would go that far."

Cooper said he has been friends with Zurconett for seven years and now lives in a trailer she partially owns, but that he doesn't return her feelings for him.

Police say Walter Hogeland approached homicide investigators in early April and told them Zurconett had contacted him about "setting up a murder," according to Zurconett's arrest report. At the time, Hogeland said he was not sure exactly what Zurconett wanted, so the investigator asked him to meet with her again.

During an April 13 meeting in Chattanooga, Zurconett told Hogeland she was willing to pay at least $300 to have the other woman killed. Zurconett said she could pay more in several weeks if the hired killer required it.

Hogeland, 65, has an arrest record, including an assault charge to which he pleaded guilty in 2011.

Zurconett is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County General Sessions Judge Clarence Shattuck's courtroom on Tuesday.

"I hate to see anybody locked up, but you do what you do to yourself," Cooper said. "You know, a long time ago I used to be in love with a woman from Chicago and she loved another guy. I remember sort of wishing he'd get hit by a bus, but I never wanted to kill him or anything."

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