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Teenager tried to hire hitman to kill 7-year-old, Iowa police say

A teenager in western Iowa was arrested and charged last week with solicitation to commit murder after allegedly attempting to hire a hitman to kill a young child, CBS affiliate KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register reported, citing local authorities.

The accused teen, who is 17 years old, apparently submitted a 7-year-old child's personal information — including their name, address, identifying details and where the child could be found — to the website, the Storm Lake Police Department reportedly said in a news release issued on Monday. 

"Rent-a-Hitman" is a parody site that features fake testimonials, a request form and a job application for aspiring hitmen, CBS News reported earlier this year. Originally created in 2005 to advertise a cyber security startup company that never got off the ground, real inquiries submitted to the website have led to at least one other confirmed arrest. In April, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman in Tennessee was indicted on federal charges after, the FBI alleged, he used the website to apply for a job as an assassin.

As was the case in the Tennessee arrest, Storm Lake police said the website's administrator forwarded the Iowa teen's request to authorities, according to the Des Moines Register. Police then identified the child targeted as well as the suspect, who was contacted by an undercover officer on Friday morning. 

The teenager was arrested that afternoon, as the officer was reportedly able to confirm that the suspect wanted the child to be killed. Additional evidence taken from the teenager's cell phone led authorities to believe the threat to the 7-year-old was credible, Storm Lake police said. Neither the child nor their family members were harmed and they were not aware of any potential threat.

The suspect is facing a felony charge for solicitation to commit murder in connection with the alleged attempt to set up a hit, police said. The teenager is being held in the Cherokee YES Center and have been referred to juvenile court as the police investigation continues. CBS News contacted the Storm Lake Police Department but did not receive an immediate reply.

While "Rent-a-Hitman" is a bogus website, similar sites exist on the dark web claiming to legitimately offer the same services. Federal authorities filed a criminal complaint in Knoxville last month that accused a Tennessee woman of trying to hire a hitman to kill the wife of a man she met on the dating application, CBS affiliate WVLT reported on Monday. In the complaint obtained by WVLT, a Homeland Security Investigation special agent wrote that the woman allegedly ordered a hitman using a dark web hosted site called "Online Killers Market."

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