Many people have an exasperating tale about a construction contractor who didn't get the job done. Shoddy work. Stopped showing up. Took the money and ran. But those don't compare to the tale of Daniel Jamison, a contractor who had a string of fraud-related convictions when he was hired and paid by a Fairfax County, Virginia., man to do a $41,000 home remodeling job.
Jamison did some work on the home, then vanished. The homeowner had him charged with construction fraud. So Jamison took his own action: He hired a hit man to kill the homeowner.
Jamison agreed to pay $500 for the murder weapon, $10,000 for the killing, and then falsely told the hit man that the homeowner had stacks of cash and Rolex watches in the house that the killer could keep after he committed the murder. All of this information is on video, because the hit man was actually a Fairfax County police officer.
Jamison did not end up paying the "hit man" anything, but he did end up charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder, a crime so rarely charged in Virginia there are no sentencing guidelines for it. And last Friday, after Jamison made a tearful apology in court but claimed he never intended to kill anyone, a Fairfax judge told him "I don't believe a word of your story" and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. And ordered him to stay 1,000 feet away from the homeowner when he gets out, at all times.
The homeowner, Stephen Mann, from the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, declined to comment. Fairfax prosecutors said he remained "truly terrified" of Jamison and has limited his family's activities around their home after being targeted for murder.
The case began unspooling in February 2016, when Mann hired Jamison to remodel his home, signing a contract and paying Jamison about $41,000, court records show. Prosecutors said Jamison began working but then stopped in early May, having performed roughly a third of the project. Jamison's attorney, Toni Fay, said Jamison had been injured and couldn't work, but she didn't specify what the injury was or why that wasn't made clear to Mann.
Jamison had prior experience with failing to complete work, court records show. In 2006, he pleaded guilty in both Arlington and Stafford counties to felony construction fraud, and was sentenced to two years in prison, a year in each county served consecutively. And then in 2011 in Fairfax County, Jamison pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of working without a contractor's license, as part of a plea deal in which another felony construction fraud count was dismissed, and was given 12 months suspended jail time on both.
In August 2016, having failed to obtain any funds from Jamison or to get him to finish the job, Mann went to the police and obtained a felony obstruction fraud charge against Jamison. This inspired Jamison to take action.
In mid-August, Jamison approached a young woman "he knew had previously been in jail," Fairfax Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Meghan Flesch said at the sentencing hearing. Jamison "asked if she knew anybody who would 'take care of' the victim in this case." The young woman asked Jamison to clarify his request. "You know, 'Take care of, take care of,'" Flesch said. Court records indicate that Jamison told the woman "he was in a butt load of trouble in Alexandria," and that whoever handled the job "could have whatever was in [Mann's] safe as a bonus," even though Mann had no safe.
The young woman relayed this request to an ex-girlfriend of Mann's, who informed Mann of the situation. Mann called Fairfax police.
An undercover Fairfax detective took over, meeting with the young woman and learning that Jamison had called her again, asking if someone had been found for the job, court records state. The woman arranged a dinner meeting in Winchester, Virginia, with Jamison, herself and the detective, which the detective secretly audio-recorded, according to court records.
During that conversation on Aug. 26, 2016, Jamison falsely told the detective "there were two safes in the house and that he had installed them," Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jessica Greis Edwardson wrote in a court filing. Jamison "told the detective Mr. Mann's schedule and what kind of car he drives," Greis Edwardson said. "He also talked about the general location of Mr. Mann's house and how easy it would be to get in the back door." Jamison and the detective agreed that Jamison would pay half the contract killing fee up front, that the "hit man" could keep whatever he took from the house and Jamison would pay him the rest.
Five days later, after an exchange of texts, Jamison and the detective met at the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on Route 1 in the Alexandria area. This time, the two took a drive together, recorded on video. The video shows Jamison directing his "hit man" to Mann's house, and discussing possible escape routes the killer could take after the deed was done.
"I can give you the layout of the f-- house like nobody's business," Jamison confidently informs the detective. "Done a s-- of work in the house." As they drive through the Belle Haven section of Fairfax County, Jamison points out a number of houses he claims to have worked on.
Looking at the back of Mann's house from a nearby street, Jamison tells the detective, "When you come up to the top of the stairs, his room is going to be on the right."
At one point, the detective cleverly asks Jamison when his next court date is. "November 7," Jamison says, correctly noting his next scheduled appearance in the construction fraud case Mann had brought against him. Flesch noted that Jamison's murder plot was also a case of "trying to get rid of a witness" against him in a pending court case.
"When can you come up with some money?" the detective asks. Jamison says, "In about three weeks." A few minutes later, the detective tells him, "Normally it's 10 grand. Five up front, and five on the back end." But there seems to be an agreement that Jamison will first pay $3,500, plus another $500 for the gun, and that the "hit man" will be able to loot Mann's safe. "He'd pull out stacks of cash," Jamison tells the detective. "Ten grand in cash. A ton of money in there." Fay, Jamison's lawyer, said none of that was true.
Jamison and the detective exchanged a number of texts after the drive to Mann's house, trying to arrange another meeting, but then prosecutors reviewed the audio and video tapes the detective already had and instructed police to arrest him, Fairfax Police Lt. Tom Harrington said.
"He seems to make a living on this type of fraud," Flesch said. "This is someone who planned a murder over several weeks to rid himself of a legal problem that he got himself into." Flesch asked Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Michael Devine to impose a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Fay argued that "Mr. Jamison injured himself and wasn't able to work" and that "Mr. Mann got upset. He used the defendant's past to turn what should have been a civil matter into a criminal matter," meaning the construction fraud case, which she noted was dismissed, though at the same time his murder-for-hire case was taken to the grand jury.
Jamison's position, Fay said, "is he jokingly made contact" with the young woman who made the connection with the Fairfax police, and "he knew this guy was a cop. He didn't say the 'M word.' He didn't exchange any money. . . . He proceeded to tell the detective some things about Mr. Mann that weren't true. . . . He thought, if it's not true, he can't get himself in trouble. In the scheme of things, Mr. Mann was never in trouble." Fay incorrectly claimed that Jamison had no contact with the detective after their first dinner meeting, and noted that Jamison had been in jail without bond since his arrest in October 2016. She asked Devine to release him for his 14 months already served.
Jamison entered an Alford plea in September, meaning he did not admit committing the crime but acknowledging the state had enough evidence to convict him. Devine then found him guilty.
"I realize that my actions were wrong," Jamison told the judge. He said he wanted to tell Mann how sorry he was "for this entire bunch of nonsense that I created. I am truly sorry for my actions."
Jamison said, "I truly thought that not talking about murder . . . coupled with not paying any money, would be enough to show that I didn't want this to happen." He told Devine he had completed numerous Bible studies by correspondence course while in jail, "and totally rededicated my life to Christ. I have aspirations of becoming a pastor and working in the prison ministry field."
Devine was unswayed.
"Mr. Jamison," the judge said, "I don't believe a word of your story about how this offense was committed. I believe you intended to have Mr. Mann killed. . . . I believe you were in deep financial trouble, and understood that another conviction would put you in great danger." He said by lying to the "hit man" about the safes and valuables in Mann's home, "you were going to rip him off the way you were ripping off Mr. Mann. . . . I cannot give you credit for taking responsibility because I don't think you have. I think you continued to lie to me, to these people," he said, gesturing at Jamison's wife and friends. "You committed a serious crime, and I'm going to impose a serious sentence."