Another Day, Another Murder Plot Foiled By an Accidental Butt-Dialing

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Nov. 27 2013 12:44 PM

Another Day, Another Murder Plot Foiled By an Accidental Butt-Dialing

Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Alleged crime: Conspiracy to commit murder.


Fatal mistake: Letting the intended victim in on the conspiracy.

The circumstances: Larry Barnett, a used car dealer in Jonesboro, Ark., had a problem: He owed a former employee a lot of money. Rather than pay what he owed, Barnett allegedly decided to solve the problem by having the employee killed. (World’s worst boss?) So Barnett allegedly contacted a hit man, and the two began discussing various details about the target, like where he lived, and why he needed to die. In the middle of this discussion, according to police, Barnett somehow accidentally called the intended victim, who proceeded to eavesdrop on Barnett’s plan. Four out of five murder plots are foiled in exactly this fashion. When will criminals learn?

Put yourself in the former employee’s place for a minute. You’re sitting at home, maybe eating some chips, when the phone rings. Oh, great, it’s my old boss Larry! Maybe he’s calling about the money he owes me. I’d better not let this call go to voicemail! And then you pick up to allegedly find that Larry is actively trying to have you killed—and not for the first time. According to, “the target overheard that Barnett had attempted to have him killed once prior but ‘they couldn't get the job done,’ ” probably because the assassin slipped on a banana peel.

According to, the alleged target went to the police. (And not a moment too soon, either: He returned later to find his house had been burglarized and his gas stove “tampered with.”) The cops arrested Barnett, and afterwards were very confused about how something as dumb as this could happen. “I’ve been here now for 25 years and I’ve never recalled a time when a subject has accidentally, if you will, ‘butt-dialed’ someone they’re either trying to commit a crime against or the possible victim of the crime,” a local cop told the media.

How he could have been a lot smarter: Much like the last dumb-criminal butt-dialing story I featured in this space, Barnett’s troubles could’ve been avoided if he would have remembered to lock his keypad, or keep his phone in one of those little cases you clip to your belt. Yes, those little cases look lame, but they could come in handy during your next murder-for-hire plot.

How he could have been a little smarter: Butt-dialed a competing hitman in hopes of sparking a bidding war that might drive down the price of the murder.

How he could have been a little dumber: Intentionally dialed his intended victim to inform him of the murder plot, out of some misguided sense of fair play.

How he could have been a lot dumber: Butt-dialed the target, butt-dialed the police, and butt-dialed a local TV news crew, and then butt-conferenced them all in to the dumbest group chat in the history of the telephone.

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): Oh, butt-dialing, God’s gift to Dumb Criminal columnists. This particular story is very, very dumb, but it’s more an accident than anything else—a very dumb accident that could have been avoided, but an accident nevertheless. And I have to give Barnett credit for allegedly being competent enough to hire an actual hit man, rather than an undercover cop posing as one on the Internet. Still, this was dumb. 8.5 out of 10 for the alleged butt-dialer.

Previous Dumb Criminals

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at



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