Allwine receives life sentence for killing wife, staging suicide
A Cottage Grove man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife following a failed murder-for-hire plot.
A Washington County jury convicted Stephen Carl Allwine of first-degree premeditated murder Jan. 31, concluding a week-long trial. District Judge William B. Ekstrum handed down the life sentence without parole Friday, Feb. 2.
Allwine drugged and shot his wife, Amy Allwine, in the head before staging her death as a suicide, prosecutors said.
A two-month investigation revealed at least two extramarital affairs by her husband along with a complex "dark web" plot for a hired hitman to kill her.
Stephen Allwine chose to have his wife killed, prosecutors said, rather than tarnish his reputation within his local church with a divorce.
Prosecutor Fred Fink said the complex cache of evidence and Allwine's "obsessiveness" in planning his wife's murder made the case unlike any he's handled during his four-decade career.
"It's fair that this defendant spends the rest of his life in prison," Fink said.
Authorities found Amy Allwine's body in her Cottage Grove home Nov. 13, 2016, while responding to a 911 from Stephen Allwine.
She suffered a single gunshot wound to the head.
Medical examiners determined her death was a homicide due to the lack of blood spatter and gunpowder on her hands.
A toxicology report revealed large amounts of scopolamine in Amy Allwine's body.
She never had a prescription for the drug, which is used to treat nausea and causes drowsiness and confusion as a side effect.
Investigators later found a 35-digit bitcoin code backed up on Stephen Allwine's computer that linked to posts on a “dark web” page about purchasing scopolamine.
Amy Allwine's family described the terrifying final months of her life in their statements.
The summer before her death, Amy Allwine received anonymous emails graphically threatening her family's lives and urging her to kill herself.
Prosecutors said the FBI contacted the family about the emails at the time.
A forensic search of Stephen Allwine's computer revealed searches for the names and addresses of his wife's relatives.
Julie Brown, Amy Allwine's sister, said the FBI warned the threats should be taken seriously.
Tasks like grocery shopping, Brown said, spurred intense anxiety.
Brown said her sister "lived in fear every waking moment of the last months of her life."
In a written statement, Amy Allwine's parents Chuck and Joanne Zutz said the betrayal they felt as authorities investigated Stephen Allwine amplified their grief.
Stephen Allwine lived in the Zutz's home for two months after his wife's death, the statement said.
Their daughter's murder, they said, robbed her 9-year-old son of his mother and "terminated" their ability to enjoy cherished family traditions.
Throughout their grief, Brown said the family found strength in their faith, which comforted Amy Allwine as she faced threats on her family's lives.
"We've lost so much, but with God's grace, all is not lost," Brown said.
Other friends and family described Amy Allwine as a loving mother, a compassionate friend and a talented figure in the area's close-knit dog training community.
"She believed in people and helped them believe in themselves," a family friend said.
Stephen Allwine stared down at the desk in front of him during the statements.
Allwine maintained his innocence in his final statements and expressed grief over the loss of his wife.
Judge Ekstrum spoke briefly before sentencing Allwine, describing the 44-year-old as "cold" and a "hypocrite."
"You're an incredible actor," Ekstrum said in response to Allwine’s statement."You can turn tears on and off."