Usually, when you hear people making plans for a murder, it’s in a movie or on TV. But conversations recorded just last month in Plainfield, New Hampshire, aren't fiction.
The recordings document 83-year-old Pauline Chase talking with a man named Mark Horne. What Chase didn’t know at the time was that Horne was working with police, taping his phone calls and video of visits to her house.
County prosecutors played the recordings in a preliminary court hearing last week in Claremont. They were trying to prove that they have enough evidence to charge Chase and her son, Maurice Temple, with attempting to have Horne kill Temple’s ex-wife.
Temple plays a more minor role in the tapes. At points, he sounds hesitant, saying he’s afraid of ending up in jail. His defense attorney argued last week that he’s the victim of entrapment, baited by Horne and law enforcement into becoming part of the alleged plot.
That scenario occurred to Temple, too, even as the events were playing out. In one of the videos, you can hear him scuffling with Horne, demanding to see the bottom of Horne’s shirt — he’s trying to figure out if Horne’s wearing a wire-tap.
And here’s a twist: Horne, the man making these recordings, is in debt to Chase, the mother. Court documents show they’ve had a rocky relationship over the years, and had been in and out of court over a property dispute. In court last week, Horne explained that he still pays her over a thousand dollars a month toward a mortgage.
Horne is also a friend of Temple’s ex-wife, who police say is the target of the alleged plot. The two work on the town’s volunteer fire department together.
Those facts led Temple’s defense attorney to suggest in court last week that perhaps Horne had other motives for bringing police attention to this issue. Reached over the phone, Horne said that’s not true — he just knew it was the right thing to do.
But there are moments in the tapes where Chase appears confused about what’s happening. Her attorney last week moved to have her mental health evaluated to see if she’s competent to stand trial. Meanwhile, the judge ruled that the evidence is strong enough to move the case against Temple, her son, forward.
As this drama played out in a courtroom in Claremont, you’d never know in the town of Plainfield itself, just a few miles north. Even the details of the case paint a picture of quiet, rural community — at one point in the tapes, Chase says she’ll give Horne a discount on some hay she’s selling him as part of her payment.
I drove around town and most people I met had heard of the case even if they hadn’t been following it closely. Perhaps unsurprisingly in a small community, many knew at least one of the characters involved. Temple’s ex-wife, the target of the alleged plot, happens to be the town’s postmaster.
“Everybody’s been talking about it,” said Paul Yates, who runs a store selling antique guns in Plainfield Village. “Some people joking about it, and other people just can’t believe that - you know - someone would even do that.”
Yates moved here about five years ago from Massachusetts and says the town’s been nothing but welcoming. He said he hopes the case doesn’t give Plainfield a bad reputation.
One of his customers, longtime town resident Joe Digby, said he thought the whole thing was just strange. “I mean, if he’s gonna do it, he should have been a little more discreet,” he said.
There will be a pause now in court proceedings until officials determine whether Chase is competent to stand trial. In the meantime, Chase and Temple’s home, tucked away in the woods, will remain vacant as they finish out the summer in jail.