TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — An Austin man is in Travis County Jail after authorities say he tried to hire a U.S. Marine to kill his ex-girlfriend.
Keith James Cote, 62, was arrested early Monday morning after officials executed a search warrant and arrest warrant for the suspect. Cote is charged with soliciting to commit capital murder and is being held on $1 million bond.
Detectives with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office searched Cote’s home Monday morning, shortly after they took him into custody. Authorities say Cote offered the Marine $10,000 for the murder and an additional $15,000 “to watch him put a bullet in her head.”
Sources say there is substantial video evidence of Cote detailing the crime to the Marine he “hired” to kill his ex-girlfriend. That Marine, however, reported Cote to authorities and assisted in the sting operation.
Details of the alleged plan
The Marine told detectives that Cote approached him Oct. 7 as he was tailgating before the University of Texas football game. He said Cote was an acquaintance. Cote allegedly invited the Marine to watch the Philadelphia Eagles football game the next day.
While at Cote’s home, he spoke to the Marine and said he needed a “dirty deed, done dirt cheap,” according to the arrest affidavit. He asked if the Marine could get a silencer and 9mm pistol.
According to the affidavit, Cote put $10,000 on the table, and told the Marine he wanted his help because “he knew ‘he had killed people before and that this would be right up his alley.'”
The Marine asked Cote why he wanted to kill his ex-girlfriend, and Cote allegedly replied: “because she’s dating a black guy.”
Initially, the Marine didn’t believe Cote was serious. Then, Cote checked in and asked if the Marine was “still on.” According to the affidavit, Cote became suspicious when the Marine asked him to text details of what he wanted. That’s when the Marine went to the police.
“He decided that he needed to report this to law enforcement because he now realizes that Keith was serious and feared he may actually find someone else to agree to kill [his ex-girlfriend],” the affidavit stated.
The Marine agreed to assist in the investigation and record his conversations with Cote. At one point, Cote said he had a “specific plan” for where and how to commit the murder.
“He stated that Mr. Cote wants to ride in the pickup with [the Marine] and would lean the seat back to prevent being seen,” the affidavit stated. “He instructed [the Marine] that he wanted him to walk up to [his ex-girlfriend’s] vehicle and tap on her window. When she looked up at him, [the Marine] is to shoot her twice in the head and he [Mr. Cote] wanted to watch her slump over the wheel dead.”
Cote allegedly went with the Marine to scout the location, providing specific details of how he should kill his ex-girlfriend so no one will see. When they returned to his house, Cote allegedly wanted to “have a toast” according to the affidavit, and he said several times that this “ain’t about revenge, it’s about the reckoning,” according to the affidavit.
The ex-girlfriend learns of the plot
Officials found Cote’s ex-girlfriend and sat down with her for an interview. She told them she had been in a relationship with Cote for several years, but broke up in 2011 and she hadn’t seen him since 2015. She said she was still afraid of him, even before detectives told her he was allegedly plotting to kill her.
“She was visibly upset, but confirmed to me that she was not surprised to learn of this plot,” the official wrote in the affidavit. “She stated that even in jail or prison she will continue to live in fear because she believes that he will still have the ability to hire someone to kill her.”
She said Cote is “independently wealthy,” and was injured in an accident that left him wheelchair-bound.
The Marine told investigators later on that Cote told him “if it were not for his accident, he would do the job himself, and would stab [his ex-girlfriend] in the heart with an ice pick so he could watch her die,” according to the affidavit.
Cote’s neighbors react
Neighbors of the suspect said news of Cote’s arrest was shocking.
“My jaw dropped. What if he would have done something to us, or you know, if he gets angry and comes after us for anything,” the woman who lives next door said. She did not wish to be identified by name for safety reasons.
“I did not imagine him,” she added. “We haven’t seen him, we haven’t talked with him much. He mostly kept to himself.”
The neighbor told KXAN she doesn’t know the woman he allegedly tried to kill, in this murder-for-hire plot.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen any females coming to his house in the last month and a half to two months,” the neighbor said.
As for the women she did see at the home, she didn’t know how they knew each other.
“I don’t know if she was a girlfriend, if she was a cleaning lady, if she was a relative checking on him — I couldn’t tell.”
Cote reportedly has a history of strangulation and violent crimes against the victim.
Cote is being held on $1,000,00 bond and is not supposed to contact the Marine or his ex-girlfriend.