Custer man accused of soliciting murder while awaiting trial

By Stefanie Donahue

A man facing a November 7 trial for assault has now been accused of trying to arrange the murder of the assault victim and her boyfriend. Kurt Ebe, 60, in jail since July, attempted to solicit the help of a fellow inmate by offering him $25,000
to do the deed.

An affidavit of probable cause determination filed October 27 alleges that Ebe presented the idea to fellow inmate Mathew Staniford while in custody at the Whatcom County Jail. According to prosecutors, Ebe hoped the murder would get charges dismissed from a July 16 assault, which allegedly occurred after Ebe accused a woman, Coerud Sowers, of stealing a rug that belonged to him. Sowers had been living in a tent on his property on the 2300 block of Birch Bay–Lynden Road.

Ebe is accused of dousing Sowers and her belongings with gasoline after the pair began arguing about the rug. Sowers fled the scene because she said she felt threatened after Ebe held a lit match near her personal items, according to the affidavit. Ebe was charged two days later with assault in the first degree. Unable to make bail of $250,000, he has sat in jail since then.

Ebe, now facing two counts of solicitation to commit murder in the first degree, is alleged to have asked Staniford to murder Sowers by inducing a drug overdose with a lethal mix of heroin and fentanyl, a notoriously powerful drug combination responsible for a recent surge in drug overdoses.

According to prosecutors, Ebe downplayed the legal consequences to Staniford and cited an incident in which he was charged and sentenced with the unlawful delivery of a controlled substance following the fatal overdose of Tara Smit at his home in 2006.

Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies received a letter in early October from Staniford reporting his conversations with Ebe. Subsequently, Staniford was outfitted with a recording device and was able to have Ebe repeat his proposal including alterations to the original offer.

According to the affidavit, Ebe later reduced the original offer to $10,000 – $5,000 each for Sowers and her boyfriend, James Richstein.

Ebe gave the inmate a hand-drawn map to the victims’ home and instructed Staniford to pose as a Canadian citizen interested in buying a truck for sale on the couple’s property. From there, Ebe requested him to give the drug to the intended victims.

On October 20, Staniford was released from jail and, working with Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies, supposedly put the plan in motion. After receiving a collateral payment from a friend of Ebe’s, Staniford convinced Ebe over the phone two days later that the job was done.

Soon after, detectives informed Ebe of the additional charges. On October 25, superior court judge Martha Gross tacked on $1 million to Ebe’s existing bail.

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