Story from April 17, 2004
St. Louis Blues center Michael Danton, 23, was arrested by FBI agents Friday in California on charges of trying to hire someone to kill a male acquaintance who lived with him.
That acquaintance, according to Reuters, CNN and other sources, was a male lover who shared an apartment with Danton in Brentwood, Mo., about five miles west of St. Louis.
According to the FBI complaint, the two men had a heated argument on Tuesday about Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol. Danton begged the acquaintance not to go to the general manager of the St. Louis Blues hockey organization and ruin his career. The acquaintance threatened to leave Danton."
Danton reportedly had concocted a story about a Canadian who had wanted to kill him over a debt. He asked a friend, Katie Wolfmeyer, 19, on Wednesday if she knew of anyone who would kill the man for $10,000. Wolfmeyer inquired to someone about the plan and that person, realizing Danton was serious, told the FBI and became a cooperating witness.
The allegation claims that Danton wanted the victim murdered in their home in a way that it looked like a burglar had broken into the apartment. Danton's cover story was to have been that two burglars broke in, and one killed the other and fled with $3,000 in cash from the apartment. The complaint said an agitated Danton wanted the job done Thursday night. "The only way that I'm going to be able to sleep tonight is knowing that the guy trying to kill me is done himself. ... I'm pretty much begging [and] I wouldn't resort to this if it wasn't a matter of life or death," the complaint quotes him as saying in a phone call to the prospective hit man just after midnight Thursday.
Once the plot was foiled, the FBI recorded a conversation Thursday between the acquaintance and Danton in which Danton was asked why he plotted the murder, Reuters reported.
"Danton explained that he felt backed into a corner and felt that the acquaintance was going to leave him," the FBI complaint said. "Danton did not want to allow the acquaintance to leave him, and therefore decided to have him murdered."
Danton was arrested in the San Francisco Bay Area just hours after his team was eliminated from the NHL playoffs by the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. For her part in the plot, Wolfmeyer was arrested Friday in Missouri.
This is as bizarre a story as we've seen in the sports world, made more unusual by what appears to be a gay relationship gone sour. Danton's fear about having his career ruined strongly suggests that their relationship was sexual. No active male athlete in the NHL, NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball has ever come out as gay, and many speculate that such an admission would end a player's career. The extent to which Danton seemed willing to go to keep his secret and his lover quiet measures the depth of homophobia in professional sports.
What jumps out about the complaint is that Danton wanted to kill a man because he was going to leave him. While the complaint does not say they were lovers, a roommate leaving doesn't seem to inspire a murderous sentiment.
Danton has had a checkered NHL career. He played in 68 games for the Blues this season, scoring seven goals and recording five assists. He was released by the New Jersey Devils after the 2002-2003 season, having played in only 17 games, and picked up by the Blues. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said Danton was known by the Devils as a malcontent, and the Blues management told his agent that the player would help himself most by "keeping his mouth shut."
In another oddity, Danton is not his original last name. As the Post-Dispatch reported: In July 2002, Danton, born in Brampton, Ontario, legally changed his name from Mike Jefferson to Mike Danton. He said during an interview this season that he did not want to be associated with his family. A "buildup of incidents" - none of which he would specify - led him to dissociate himself from the Jeffersons. He chose "Danton" because it was the first name of a youth he met while helping at a hockey camp. He stopped answering to Jefferson or any nickname derived from the last name. He preferred "Dants."
Dave Frost, Danton's agent, told the Post-Dispatch: "We don't as of yet have all the facts. I spoke with Mike. We're fully supportive of him, and we fully intend to be behind him, and with him. Unequivocally, I can tell you it had nothing to do with drugs and alcohol, period. Once we get all the facts, we'll be able to realize what really happened. He's a good kid. He really is."
If convicted, Danton could be imprisoned up to 10 years and fined up to $250,000 on each of two counts--that he conspired and that he used a telephone across state lines to set up a murder.