Woman Tricked Arsonist into Killing Her ‘Best Friend’ for Life Insurance Payments | Oxygen Official Site

A solitary morning in Lake Horn, Mississippi was broken on December 19, 1994 by two explosions from the house fire.

Inside the house, firefighters found the body of Lula Young, a 47-year-old mother of two who was suffering from cancer.

“He died of smoke inhalation,” said Stephen Price, a retired Commercial Appeal reporter. “Mastermind of Murder,” broadcast Sunday to 7/6c on Oxygen. “I can’t imagine the misery he went through in the last moments of his life.”

Researchers sifted through the debris to find out. They found a heater with a broken line and a propane tank with a valve that was partially open, according to court documents.

The findings indicated that the fire may have been set on purpose. Young faced terminal cancer. Could he have killed himself? Family members and friends said that they would not think about killing themselves.

Margaret Ward, the victim’s sister, recalled that Young was “very loving” and “a very difficult mother.” When faced with divorces, financial problems, and illness, Young persevered.

Investigators found that Young had a life insurance for $500,000. The beneficiary was Linda Leedom, “his best friend,” Price told producers.

Choosing Leedom’s beneficiary instead of his children did not make the Young family suspicious, according to “Mastermind of Murder.” Leedom seemed to support Young through all of life’s challenges.

After the fire, Leedom wrote to the community paper: “I lost my sister, my friend, my best friend, and a confidant,” The Washington Post reported in 1997.

Leedom told investigators he was at a family gathering at the time of the fire, and the alibi came out. Investigators returned to the same location.

Then, the case suddenly changed on December 26. While shopping, the insurance company spied on a woman who bought her life insurance. She identified herself at the time as Lula Young.

“This insurance agent had already heard about the fire and knew Lula Young was going to die,” said DeSoto County Coroner Chris Sheley. The agent saw In the store was Linda Leedom.

Investigators determined that Leedom made purchases behind Young’s back, made monthly payments, and stood to profit from her death.

Did he hire someone to start the deadly fire when they were reunited? Or did he himself convince her to join the insurance company with someone else?

Prosecutors turned to the US Attorney’s Office for mail fraud and insurance fraud, according to Sheley, since all insurance documents were sent through the postal service and mail fraud is a federal crime.

Robert Muehlberger, a retired forensic scientist, is an expert in handwriting recognition and forgery detection. He confirmed that Leedom forged Young’s signature on the documents.

“It was clear that these were fraudulent schemes,” he said.

After the money was deposited into Leedom’s bank account, he committed fraud, Price said. Leedom was then arrested.

Two years after Young’s death, a prison counselor who was arrested for the robbery came forward to investigators. They told police that a former employee, Charles Wayne Dunn, confessed to starting the fire that killed the woman.

Dunn had a previous conviction for possession of cocaine, a non-violent crime. At the time of the investigation, Dunn was on probation and met regularly with his probation officer. Investigators worked out a plan to get the informant and Dunn in the same room.

“I told the supervisor about Dunn to call him into the long-term office to get him tested and drug tested,” Sheley said. The informant was also present wearing a wire to record his conversation with Dunn.

When they were alone, the informant asked Dunn about the horrific fire. Dunn did not deny it. Instead he mentioned the idea that you can’t shake your past.

Another statement that Dunn convinced authorities was linked to the fire that killed Young — but they didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest, so they brought Dunn in for questioning.

Sheley said: “I told him I knew he had been using drugs and that he hated killing people. “At first he denied what was happening.”

The searcher then brought a heater and a propane tank. He told Mr. Dunn that he believed the fire was set intentionally and that this was arson and murder.

Dunn then admitted to participating in the arson that killed Young. He shocked investigators when he said he was paid $5,000 by Leedom to start the fire.

It turns out that Dunn did odd jobs for Leedom and was having an affair with his daughter. Dunn also knew Young and hung out with him. But his drug addiction meant he needed a lot of money, according to “Mastermind of Murder.”

Authorities also noted that Leedom had a history of arson. Dunn told authorities he also paid her $500 to set fire to her daughter’s house to collect insurance money.

Leedom convinced Dunn, he said, that killing the terminally ill Young would be beneficial.

Dunn visited with Young the night of the fire. After sleeping he put the propane tank in the house and opened the valve. He placed a heater next to the tank and then spread paper to douse the fire. He also tampered with the heater line.

“To make it look like an accident, a wire was cut to make it look like a short in the wire that started the fire,” said Muehlberger.

Dunn turned on the heater and then left.

Leedom, who at this time was awaiting trial on fraud charges, believed that his long friendship with Young would protect him from suspicion.

Investigators put a wire on Dunn to record his conversations with her. In the audio, he told her that he was giving her money to do it, according to the “Mastermind of Murder”.

Leedom was charged with murder and arson, but a search of Leedom’s home brought another startling revelation.

Investigators found a driver’s license with Dunn’s photo on it – but the name on the ID was Robert Stovall. He also secured Stovall’s insurance for $200,000, naming Leedom as the beneficiary.

Stovall’s caregiver was Leedom’s mother, who, authorities said, knew nothing about insurance. Stovall was safe and sound in Tennessee at the time.

In late 1997, Linda Leedom pleaded guilty to committing fraud in the Lulu Young life insurance case. He received a 27-month sentence and was ordered to pay $275,000 in restitution to the insurance companies he defrauded.

Two years later, on August 31, 1999, a jury found Leedom guilty of capital murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

For his role in the murder, Dunn was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

For more information on this matter, see “Mastermind of Murder,” broadcast Sunday to 7/6c on Oxygen or follow the steps here.