Team stunned by murder-for-hire charge

Updated: April 18, 2004, 6:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ST. LOUIS -- A day after St. Louis forward Mike Danton was arrested in San Jose, Calif., and charged in an alleged murder-for-hire scheme, his Blues teammates were still having trouble fathoming the news.

"It's beyond shock," forward Doug Weight said Saturday as players cleaned out their lockers. "I don't know what to say."

Mike Danton
Mike Danton's life has turned radically this week.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Illinois, Danton, 23, and 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer tried to hire someone to kill an acquaintance of the hockey player. Danton was arrested at the airport in San Jose after the Blues were knocked out of the playoffs by a loss to San Jose on Thursday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in its Sunday editions that Danton had agreed to extradition, and that he was being moved from a California jail to St. Louis.

Danton's lawyer and agent were not yet sure when he would arrive in St. Louis.

"I don't have any comment really at this time, because I have not had a chance to communicate with [Danton]," Robert Haar, a St. Louis-based attorney representing Danton, told the Post-Dispatch on Saturday. "He should soon be in transit from California, and I then will have a chance to talk with him about the allegations."

A hearing will be held with a U.S. District Court magistrate when Danton arrives in St. Louis, at which time he'll be advised of the complaint and charges against him.

"It's tough," center Keith Tkachuk told reporters. "I don't know what's going on. You guys probably know more than I do."

Danton and Wolfmeyer face federal charges of conspiring and using a telephone across state lines to set up a murder. According to the criminal complaint, Danton told Wolfmeyer that a hit man from Canada was coming to kill him and asked her if she knew someone who would kill the person for $10,000.

The complaint alleges that Danton was trying to kill a male acquaintance whom he had fought with Tuesday over Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol." The complaint said Danton feared the acquaintance, who is not identified, would talk to Blues management and ruin Danton's career.

"We don't as of yet have all the facts," Danton's agent Dave Frost told the Post-Dispatch. "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."

Frost also told the Post-Dispatch for its Sunday editions that Danton had asked him a week ago to help set up counseling for him for fears and other emotional problems.

"He had things he wanted to get off his chest and he needed help to do so," Frost said. "We were setting something up for him for the end of the season."

Danton, formerly known as Mike Jefferson, has been estranged from his family for some time and changed his name to Danton in the summer of 2002.

Danton's break from his family is just part of his reportedly turbulent personal background and the current complaint has prompted speculation into the nature of his relationship with the alleged target.

Though the affidavit is vague, the complaint states that Danton broke into tears when the male acquaintance confronted him about the alleged murder plot. It also states that Danton "felt the acquaintance was going to leave him."

That has raised questions about the character of Danton's relationship with the man, but sources with knowledge of the investigation who are close to Danton have told the Post-Dispatch the relationship was not intimate.

One source told the newspaper there is no indication the relationship had a "sexual element to it at all."

Weight said what Danton does in his personal life is his own business and shouldn't have been a problem for the team.

"Let's preface it by saying who knows what the situation is," Weight said. "There's rumors of what went on and who exactly was involved with this so-called thing. "Let's not jump to conclusions."

Danton was suspended twice for disciplinary reasons by the New Jersey Devils last season before being traded to St. Louis last June. He had seven goals, 12 points and 141 penalty minutes in 68 games this season -- all career highs -- with the Blues.

In one game, although he was at a decided disadvantage, he tried to goad Vancouver tough guy Todd Bertuzzi into a fight.

"I don't know a tougher guy than him, I don't know a guy that goes in the corner and gets killed and that will drop his gloves with a guy who's 40 pounds heavier in a flash," Weight said. "He's tough as nails."

Some teammates were hoping Danton's arrest was just a misunderstanding.

"He brings a great presence to the dressing room, so it's just real tough to see him go through this," defenseman Bryce Salvador said. "I really do feel like he's family. It's unfortunate, because he's a great guy."

Others wanted Danton to know he was in their thoughts.

"We're worried about his life right now and what he's going through," Weight said. "It's a scary thought.

"I feel for him and I'm praying for him."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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