Microsoft employee, 42, who used dark web to pay hitman $16K worth of Bitcoin to KILL the parents of his five adopted is sentenced to seven years in prison after admitting to his sick plan


A Microsoft software engineer has been sentenced to seven years in prison for accessing a dark web hitman site and plotting to kill the parents of his adopted children.

Christopher Pence, 42, of Cedar City, Utah, was sentenced in the Northern District of New York on Thursday.

He pled guilty to soliciting and paying for the murder of a 35-year-old man and 38-year-old woman in December of last year. Neither killing took place.

Pence later confessed to FBI agents that he coordinated the murder plot of the upstate New York couple because he believed they were abusing children.

He first accessed the darknet site in July 2021 using The Onion Router, a peer-to-peer overlay network that enables users to browse the Internet anonymously.

Documents reviewed by show Pence planning the killings with another user and a website administrator in exchange for $16,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Christopher Pence, 42 (far right), was sentenced to seven years in prison for organizing a murder-for-hire plot on the dark web

He was arrested at his $1 million property in Cedar City, Utah in 2021 and held in federal custody until his sentencing Thursday

‘The anonymous user provided the site administrator with the names, addresses and photographs of the intended victims, as well as the manner in which the killing should take place,’ a criminal complaint reads.

Pence instructed that the killing ‘should be made to look like an accident or botched robbery, and that, if possible, care should be taken to not harm any of the three children known to be in the care of the intended victims’. 

He transferred the money using methods including a cryptocurrency wallet service that advertised itself as a means for shielding monetary transfers from prying eyes.

Investigators tied information from the cryptocurrency exchange account, including a date of birth and social security number, to Pence, who accessed the site through August 2021.

In an interview later that year, FBI agents told Pence that they had assumed control of the murder-for-hire site and were provided the names of users, including his own, by the site operator.

Investigators interviewed Pence’s intended victims in September 2021 and learned that his family had adopted five of their children, ‘and that there was an escalating dispute between the two families’.

Tensions were so high that the Hoosick Falls couple wanted to retain custody of their children and even reported Pence’s family to local child welfare authorities, documents reveal.

The criminal complaint notes that the photos Pence provided to the site admin matched those ‘provided by the intended victims to Pence and his family for use as a ‘baby book,’ with the intended victims’ children’. 

Pence (third from left, back row) worked as a security architect for Microsoft at the time of his arrest

He and his wife, Michelle, adopted five children from an upstate New York couple who Pence later targeted in the murder-for-hire scheme, believing they were abusing the kids

Agents executed a federal search warrant on Pence’s Cedar City home the following month to seize electronic documents. It was then he admitted to his involvement in the scheme.

Transcripts show that two agents exchanged small talk with Pence as they sat in a government-issued Chevy Tahoe on the morning of October 27, 2021.

One agent told Pence that he was not under arrest and had ‘no obligation’ to talk to them.

‘We would appreciate your help, okay? I’m just trying to figure out – ’cause obviously we’re here for a reason, right?’ the agent said.

That was enough to convince him. In 2018, Pence divulged, he and his family, who resided in Washington at the time, were crossing through Massachusetts on a six-week tour of the country.

His wife, Michelle, suddenly received a message from a woman pleading for help for her five children. The Pence family, including their own 10 kids, agreed to meet with the woman and pray with her.

Pence alleged that the woman said her children were not safe being around her husband, who had been propositioning himself to other women.

‘The mom basically said, look, I need somewhere for my kids to go, they’re not safe here,’ Pence told the agents.

‘So, we left. We got to Massachusetts with 10 children, and left there with 15.’

Pence asserted that he began to distance the children from their birth parents following the adoption, but the couple followed them to Texas and then asked to move their trailer onto the family’s property in Utah.

Property records show the seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom house and surrounding 20 acres are valued at around $1 million. 

Pence further alleged that one of the children had been abused through discipline by their birth parents and he refused to stand by any longer. 

‘With everything you’re dealing with, everything you’re doing – you are the protector of these kids, okay?’ one agent said.

‘You are the savior of these kids, and you do this for the family, it’s clear to me. I didn’t understand why before, but it’s very clear to me that you would do anything for these children.’

Pence did not seem convinced: ‘Have I ruined my life?’ he said.

When asked if he wanted anything from the house, the Microsoft engineer responded, ‘I’d like a time machine if you have it’. He was arrested the same day.

When FBI agents swarmed his Utah home in October 2021, Pence admitted to his involvement in the scheme

His family continued to band around him, with wife Michelle urging GoFundMe donors to ‘pray that charges would be dropped’

Pence’s sister, April Foltz, organized the fundraising campaign on behalf of his family, including 10 of the his and Michelle’s own children

An website viewed by shows Christopher and Michelle Pence were actively seeking children to adopt, advertising themselves through a ‘family profile’. 

‘We are open to children with many, many special needs. We do not mind having contact with the child’s biological parents (by email or by phone or by mail or in person) provided the parent was/is not abusive to the child,’ Michelle wrote.

She noted that her husband ‘works full-time for Microsoft as a computer network security engineer and has a flexible work schedule’ and added that their sense of ‘morality’ stemmed from their ‘Christian beliefs’.

In the years leading up to his sentencing, Pence’s family continued to rally around him. 

His sister, April Foltz, set up a GoFundMe in December 2021 that featured several photos of Pence, Michelle and their band of children.

‘This is my brother’s family. They are a very happy, loving family. He has been accused of a terrible crime that did not involve any harm or misconduct to the children or his wife and did not involve any infidelity,’ Foltz wrote.

She described Pence as a ‘solid provider’ and explained that the pending case left them with ‘no money to pay the mortgage, to buy food, utilities, put gas in the car, etc’. 

In a follow up post, Michelle begged for prayers.

These included pleas for ‘favor with the guards and especially with the judge for release’ and ‘family unity through this difficult trial’. 

‘And pray that charges would be dropped,’ Michelle wrote. 

Pence pled guilty to one count of the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire plot on December 6, 2023.

Following completion of his prison term, Pence has been ordered to serve a three-year term of supervised release.

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