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Couple charged with plotting murder

A Seffner man and his girlfriend were arrested Wednesday night afteroffering to pay an undercover sheriff's detective $500 to kill a man with whom they were having a financial disagreement, sheriff's officials said.

Brian Lewis Bicaise, 32, and Tamara Dawn Vail, 22, of Tampa, had asked the detective to break into the home of Ronald Leuthold, rob him and then stab him to death with a knife provided by the couple, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said Thursday.

Bicaise is accused of holding the knife to the chest of the detective and telling him, "This is where I want you to stab him," according to Sheriff's Capt. Gary Terry.

Officials said they learned of Bicaise's intentions when a witness, who had heard Bicaise say he wanted to have Leuthold killed, called the sheriff's office. Detective James Gaczewski, posing as someone who might be interested in carrying out the plot, first made contact with Bicaise on Feb. 10, according to jail records.

About 7 p.m. Wednesday, the detective went to Bicaise's mobile home to make the final arrangements. Bicaise then gave him the knife and a map showing where Leuthold lives, according to records.

Vail, 22, was in the room when the plan was discussed, officials said. "She was an active participant," Terry said of her role.

Bicaise and Vail both were arrested and charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. They were being held without bail at Hillsborough County Jail.

Few details were available Thursday about the relationship between Leuthold and the suspects or the nature of their dispute. Terry described Leuthold as an associate of the couple but said they did not work together.

Leuthold, 45, told police he lives in Twin Palms, a mobile home park of well-worn rentals on U.S. 92 near Interstate 4 in Seffner. An assistant manager there said he had never heard of Leuthold.

Terry said Leuthold was surprised to learn of the plans to kill him. "He was very concerned for his safety. I don't think he's hanging out there" at Twin Palms, Terry said.

A man who answered the door at Bicaise's home at the Anchorage mobile home park on Williams Road said Bicaise works as manager of the park, which is owned by Bicaise's mother.

Bicaise's record includes 1988 charges for attempted first-degree murder, shooting into an occupied dwelling and aggravated assault with a firearm, as well as a 1985 charge for aggravated battery. Court records indicate Bicaise was not prosecuted on any of the charges.

Vail, a registered nurse, was described as "quiet and pleasant" by the managers of the mobile home park where she lives.

Vail purchased her own tidy, white mobile home and moved into Paradise Village earlier this month, said Lee and Pam Williams. Lee Williams said he does criminal records checks and economic evaluations on everyone who wants to move into the park, and Vail passed all the checks.

"Then we saw the noon news," Williams said. "We couldn't believe it."