published Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Victim in alleged murder-for-hire fears for her safety

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

The alleged victim in what police have dubbed a murder-for-hire plot by a jealous woman said Tuesday she fears for her safety whenever she sees the woman.

Sharon Anna Zurconett waived her preliminary hearing on a charge of solicitation to commit murder. The Hamilton County grand jury now will decide if there is enough evidence to indict her.

After the brief hearing Tuesday, Celestea Figueroa, 51, said she looks over her shoulder constantly and pays close attention to unfamiliar cars driving up her street since she learned about the alleged plot against her.

Police arrested Zurconett on April 24 after Walter Hogeland, 65, reported that two weeks earlier she tried to pay him $300 to kill Figueroa, who Zurconett said was with her "old man."

Gary Cooper said after the hearing that he was the alleged "old man" and, at the time, lived in a mobile home partially owned by Zurconett. But he said he's only been friends with Zurconett and never had a physical or romantic relationship with the woman.

Cooper has known Zurconett since 2005 and said Zurconett's mother had helped him with money problems.

"She's threatened every girlfriend I've had since we've known [each other] and caused breakups," he said.

Zurconett declined to comment Tuesday.

She is free on a $10,000 bond, and Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck reminded her that she could not contact any victims or witnesses in the case as a condition of her bond.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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