BUCKHANNON – A woman charged with solicitation of murder was found not guilty Wednesday after jurors heard two days of testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses.
Jaymie Wright faced one count of solicitation of murder for allegedly attempting to have someone kill her husband, according to an indictment from January 2022. Three other felony charges were previously dropped.
Jurors acquitted Wright on the single remaining charge Wednesday afternoon after about three hours of deliberations. The two-day trial featured testimony from six prosecution witnesses — Brandon Daff, Michelle Tomey, Jerry Daff, Roberta Grey, Zech Wright and Special Agent Steve Worthy with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — and two from the defense — Shala Rowan and Chelsea Rush.
In his opening and closing arguments, Wright’s defense attorney, Tom Dyer, pointed to the lack of hard evidence and claimed the testimony of the prosecution witnesses was disjointed and unreliable. Dyer said he felt the state’s case primarily rested on the testimony of one person, Brandon Daff, the first witness to testify during the trial.
Witness Brandon Daff
During questioning from special prosecuting attorney Savannah Wilkins, Daff said he was not particularly close to Zech or Jaymie Wright, but his significant other at the time, Michelle Tomey, was at their house regularly and stayed in contact with Jaymie on a consistent basis.
Daff said he did not notice any problems in the Wrights’ relationship until Jaymie started “distancing herself from him.” He and Tomey helped Jaymie Wright move out of her residence with Zech in December 2020.
Near the end of the day, Daff testified he was sitting in Tomey’s car, in the passenger seat, when Jaymie Wright approached him from the window and dropped a pistol in his lap and then walked back to the house. She did not say anything, and no one else saw the encounter, Daff said. Once Tomey returned to the car, he cocked the weapon, saw it was unloaded and showed Tomey the firearm.
Daff said he was unsure what to do with the pistol, so he took it to his father’s house and asked him to place it in a safe.
“You don’t keep a gun that’s not yours — that’s dumb,” Daff said.
The father, Jerry Daff, testified Brandon did arrive at his home with the weapon and looked “scared.” He placed the pistol in the safe and said no one else had the combination but himself. Jerry Daff could not recall how long the weapon stayed in the safe.
Brandon Daff testified that several days later, on Zech Wright’s porch, Jaymie allegedly asked him to “take the pistol, kill Zech and make it look like a suicide.” Daff said Jaymie told him that Zech Wright had life insurance or a pension of some kind that she would receive upon his death, and she would pay him $5,000.
Daff said he did not respond to the request, but several days later, he saw Zech Wright and told him about the incident.
During cross-examination, Dyer asked Daff if there was ever any follow-up from Jaymie after the encounter on the porch. Daff said she did not contact him again but noted that he did not have a phone of his own at the time.
Dyer then asked why Jaymie would ask him to kill her husband if they weren’t close friends.
“Because she was desperate to get rid of her husband,” Daff said.
Daff spoke to ATF on Jan. 4, 2021, and Dyer asked if they wanted Daff to wear a wire and speak to Jaymie about the events. Daff replied that he was not asked and said he “wanted nothing to do with the situation.”
Witness Michelle Tomey
According to Tomey, Daff told her about the gun when Jaymie Wright allegedly gave it to him in December 2020, but she never saw the firearm. She testified she drove Daff to his father’s house so he could place the gun in the safe.
Wilkins asked if Tomey knew why Jaymie allegedly gave Daff the gun, and she said, “She wanted to leave Zech.” Several weeks prior, Jaymie had allegedly told Tomey, “My only way out is to kill him.”
During this conversation, Jaymie allegedly asked her if her brother would do it, but Tomey said she did not want to involve him. Tomey testified that this was when Wright asked if Daff would kill her husband, and she responded by saying she didn’t think he would be willing to do it.
Wilkins asked Tomey why she didn’t go to the police, and Tomey said she “didn’t think she would actually do it.”
Tomey testified that Jaymie told her the kids would be OK because Zech had life insurance through his work, and the money would take care of them. Wilkins asked Tomey if she ever saw Zech appear abusive, and Tomey claimed the police were called to the Wright residence at least twice.
Wilkins also asked if Tomey knew that Daff testified that he was the one who told Zech about Jaymie Wright’s plan. Tomey said she couldn’t know what Daff had told Zech.
During cross-examination, Dyer asked Tomey what she did with all this information, and she said after Daff was allegedly given the gun, she told Zech “everything she knew.” Dyer asked how Zech reacted, and she said he was shocked.
Tomey testified that she was interviewed by ATF agents at her home on March 8, 2021. Dyer asked if Tomey was ever given the option to wear a wire, and she said she could not recall.
Witness Zech Wright
Zech Wright said he and Jaymie were married in 2012 and separated in November or December 2020.
He testified to owning the pistol Jaymie allegedly gave to Brandon Daff and noticed it was missing after she moved out. He never reported the firearm as stolen.
Zech testified Tomey and Daff approached him together and told him Jaymie was attempting to hire someone to shoot him.
He said he was employed by a mining company from 2011 to 2021, which provided him with benefits such as health insurance, a 4O1K and life insurance. A document was presented to the court showing that the life insurance policy would pay out $156,000 to the beneficiary. However, the document did not show Jaymie Wright as the beneficiary. Zech said that was because he changed it after Tomey and Daff approached him.
During cross-examination, Dyer asked Zech if he had any documentation proving Jaymie was the prior beneficiary for his life insurance policy. Zech said he asked for the older documents, but since he didn’t work for that company anymore, they would not send the old policy.
Dyer also asked Zech what he did after Tomey and Daff told him Jaymie had allegedly asked Daff to shoot him. He said he went to his lawyer, Brian Bailey.
Witness Steve Worthy
ATF Special Agent Steve Worthy testified that an employee for Bailey contacted him after Zech Wright had reached out to the attorney and shared his concerns over what Tomey and Daff disclosed. Worthy interviewed Daff on Jan. 4, 2021, and following the interview, he followed Daff to his father’s house and collected the pistol from his safe.
Worthy also testified that he attempted to have Daff or Tomey wear a wire to gather more evidence. Daff was cooperative but did not want to wear a wire because he didn’t think he could retrieve the necessary information, while Tomey stopped responding to their calls after he made the request, Worthy told the court.
During cross-examination, Dyer asked Worthy if they had found ammunition with the gun, and Worthy said there was no ammunition in evidence. Dyer also confirmed that both Daff and Tomey were asked to wear a wire, and Worthy said they were.
Witness Chelsea Rush
On direct examination, Chelsea Rush said she and Jaymie Wright had been good friends since early childhood. In December 2020, Jaymie and her children moved in with Rush.
Dyer asked if it seemed like Jaymie had a plan after leaving Zech.
“Her next steps were to get on her feet, on her own, get a job and find a place stable for her kids and herself,” Rush said.
Dyer also asked if Jaymie seemed to be going through money trouble, and Rush said she never mentioned money problems, adding that she was receiving help from her parents and she was actively looking for a job.
The defense attorney asked if it seemed like Jaymie was moving on from her relationship with Zech.
“I think she was finally at peace knowing she was in a safe place,” Rush said. “At that time, everything was going back and forth, but she had finally decided divorce was the best choice to keep her kids. Her kids were her main priority at this point.”
When asked if Jaymie had ever expressed a desire to “get back” at Zech, Rush said no.
During cross-examination, Wilkins asked Rush what she meant by the phrase “safe place.”
“I always consider my home a safe place,” Rush said. “She could always call me if she needed anything and my door was always open.”
Witness Shala Rowan
Zech Wright’s cousin, Shala Rowan, was also called as a defense witness, testifying that she was close to both Zech and Jaymie Wright. Rowan moved into Zech’s home after Jaymie moved out in December 2020.
“My aunt said Jaymie left and Zech needed help with the house and bills, so I moved in to help,” Rowan said. “I wasn’t sure why she left initially.”
Dyer asked how long she stayed in the home with Zech, and Rowan said Zech’s mother came to stay at the house about a week later, so she left. When asked if anyone told her about the alleged plan to kill Zech, she said no.
Dyer asked if she remained close with Jaymie after she moved out.
“I tried to, but she was skeptical about talking to me because I am related to Zech and everything was so raw,” Rowan said. “Months down the road I reached out again and that’s when I was finally able to talk with her.”
Under cross-examination, Wilkins presented several screenshots from social media websites, including a comment section from a Facebook post. The first comment was from Zech, which said, “You just said on Facebook that you are going to try to make up a lie for someone that tried killing your cousin. LMFA, get a life Shala.”
In the screenshot, Rowan responded, “It’s sad that she felt the only way she could get away from being beat constantly was to kill you, to save herself and your children.”
Wilkins said these conversations occurred in November 2022.
Dyer said the stories presented by the witnesses didn’t always add up.
“If somebody’s going to be convicted of something, especially this serious, we have to take a hard look,” Dyer said, adding that the state’s case came down to the premise that two people did not know each other well, and then one evening, one of them gave the other a gun.
“He’s sitting in a car, and in the absence of any prior discussion or conversation about what he claims is about to happen, Jaymie Wright comes up to the car and then drops a gun in his lap?” Dyer said. “There’s no discussion about payment at this point, there are no bullets that are given at this point in time. Those are significant facts in my mind.”
Daff did not have a reputation as someone willing to kill another person for money, Dyer said, pointing to oddities and discrepancies with his story.
“He doesn’t go to law enforcement — I thought that was more than just peculiar,” Dyer said. “He said he waited around until he happened to see Zech and shared this story. That gets a little strange, because Michelle testified [that] she told Mr. Wright, and Mr. Wright says they both came to see him together.”
Dyer said there were other inconsistencies, and while it can be nerve-racking to testify, he didn’t think stories made sense.
“The story needs some corroboration,” he said. “All we have is a gun. That’s it, that’s all we have. So Agent Worthy tried to get more evidence, but Michelle refuses to cooperate with the agents. Why did she refuse to cooperate? The only reason I can think of is she knows this is one big lie, and a conversation on that wire would confirm it. This is important, because it leaves the state with no case they can prove at all. Nothing.”
The jury came back with the unanimous not guilty verdict early Wednesday afternoon.