The 85-year-old Willis woman wearing a pink-striped jail suit sat emotionless in her wheelchair last week in a Montgomery County courtroom, as prosecutors painted a portrait of her that was far from the grandmotherly figure she resembled.
Dorothy Clark Canfield had already pleaded guilty to trying to hire a hitman to maim the district attorney there and kill his chief prosecutor. She had also pleaded guilty to stealing $100,000 from illegal immigrants, which authorities say she squandered on everything from skydiving to spa beauty treatments. As a result, Canfield was facing up to life in prison for the criminal solicitations of capital murder and aggravated assault and up to 20 years for the immigrant theft scam.
Before the prosecution rested its case in the punishment phase Thursday, Lisa Tanner, an assistant Texas attorney general handling the case, reminded the court how Canfield, whom jail inmates said had been nicknamed “No Soul,” had been recorded telling an undercover officer posing as a hitman how she was eagerly “looking forward” to seeing his job completed within a day after they talked.
Canfield had first only wanted the assistant prosecutor handling her immigrant scam case “knocked off” but then added Montgomery County’s DA, Brett Ligon, to the “contract” — hoping investigators might link it to the murders in 2013 of another Texas district attorney, his wife and chief prosecutor in Kaufman County. That case was initially thought to possibly involve the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, which had been vigilantly prosecuted by a task force that included Montgomery and Kaufman counties.
“It was a scary time,” Ligon said, recalling how he had required a security detail for a while until a disgruntled Kaufman justice of the peace who had been convicted of theft was found to be the culprit.
Canfield had correctly described Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Rob Freyer, who was handling her theft case, to the officer posing as the hitman. But she mistakenly gave him the name of the female assistant district attorney, Morgan Dashe, who had seized the assets Canfield had left in her bank accounts.
Freyer testified that he had never come across anything similar during his nearly 18 years as a prosecutor. “It’s scary to think someone would go to such lengths to have me executed for just doing my job,” he said. “I would take comfort if the court allows her to rot in prison and then in hell after that.”
Ligon also took the stand to testify that any effort to attack an elected public servant threatens the very fabric of the order of law and should not be tolerated.
The plot to hire a hitman was spawned in the Montgomery County Jail after Canfield heard TV reports about the killings of the two Kaufman County prosecutors that made her smile, two cellmates testified.
One of them, Kristen Kimmel, said that afterward Canfield pestered her to help find someone to “knock off” her own prosecutor. Kimmel testified tearfully that she had done some bad things in her life, but had never participated in murder.
In an audio recording, she tries to dissuade Canfield. But Canfield said she was old and wanted out of jail. “I’ve been here before. If I have to come back, it won’t be much difference,” she said.
Through Kimmel, she contacted the officer she thought was a hitman and they spoke by phone and then in person at the jail, where he went as a visitor.
She was also recorded admitting to scamming immigrants for thousands of dollars, pretending to help them get citizenship papers but providing them nothing. “I love pretty clothes. I love fancy living, and that takes money to do,” she said on the tape.
Another cellmate, Glenna Jones, testified that Canfield also said she wanted to see a daughter-in-law killed because she had influenced her son against helping her.