Velma Whitehead

It is cases such as this one, and the one that will come after, that boggle my mind.  I will never understand the women (I am unsure I know of a case with a man) that conspire with their own children, most of the time who are only teenagers, and often times recruit their friends to commit murder.  Most often it is in attempts to get money from insurance policies. Of course there are the rarer cases such as Gertrude Baniszewski who recruited her children, as well as neighborhood children, to torture and murder Sylvia Likens, a teenage border in her home.  In that case the only motive that could be found was jealously of youth. But, regardless of motive, most of these women start throwing the blame solely on their children when they get caught.  I suppose Velma Whitehead should be given some credit that she pleaded guilty for her role in the murder of her husband, although most do not believe her expressed motive.

On March 18, 2005 in Des Moines  Washington Boeing employee, Ronald Whitehead was headed to work.  His stepson, Jon Ogden was in the passenger seat.  Presumably the plan, or at least the plan Ronald thought, was to drop Jon, the boy he had raised as his own since he was young, off somewhere along the way.  They were only a few miles away from home when, at a stoplight at an intersection shots rang out.  Witnesses would see Ronald Whitehead thrown from his car and the car speed away.  Ronald Whitehead would die in the middle of the street from at least two gunshot wounds, one to his head.  His car would be found a few miles further down the road abandoned.

Velma Whitehead would conduct interviews with the media pleading for the capture of the killer of her husband in an apparent car jacking.  Police had no real leads in the case but their investigation would eventually lead to the arrest of Velma, her son Jon Ogden and his classmate, Wilson Sayachack.  Both Jon and Wilson were only sixteen years old at the time of Ronald Whitehead's murder.  They would be arrested in June of 2006.

By the time Velma pleaded guilty in June of 2008 Wilson Sayachack had already faced two trials. They had both ended in mistrials.  The first was due to the jury being unable to make a decision on his guilt or innocence and in the middle of the second trial new evidence had emerged that would eventually produce the murder weapon.  For  her part Velma would proclaim that Ronald had been abusive to her, hence her desire to have him killed. Ronald's family, and even the judge later, would proclaim these allegations were false.  However, to be fair Velma had supposedly told friends and acquaintances this at some point also.  Now, whether it was before or after her husband was murdered or if her allegations were even true is truly unknown.  The judge who sentenced her to twenty-two years in prison did not believe it however and reminded her that her husband was the victim in this case and not her.

In August of 2008 Jon Ogden would face a two week trial.  The prosecution would contend that Velma Whitehead had recruited her son to have his stepfather murdered.  In turn Jon had hired classmate Wilson Sayachack by offering him $1,000.  On the morning of the murder Sayachack hid in the truck of Ronald Whitehead's car.  When the car came to a stop at an intersection he pushed the back seat forward and began firing.  Apparently Jon Ogden then pushed his stepfather's body out of the car, moved into the drivers seat and sped off. Prosecutors reassembled Ronald Whitehead's car in the courtroom for Jon's trial.  The jury took about half of a day to decide Jon Ogden was guilty.  

Wilson Sayachack was scheduled to go on trial next, his third, but apparently upon learning Jon had been convicted and likely the information given out in his trial (although my research brought up little on specifics at trial) he decided to plead guilty.  The judge decided to sentence both Jon Ogden and Wilson Sayachack on the same day.  In October of 2008 they were both sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.  

The motive?  Greed of course.  The Whiteheads had owned their home as well as four rental properties.  Upon her husband's death not only did Velma Whitehead receive approximately $650,000 in life insurance and workplace benefits but she had sold two of their rental properties, pocketing nearly another $450,000.

I had a little difficult in finding information about where the trio are now housed.  Initially I was confused because I had misunderstood that this was in the state of Washington and not Iowa. When I got to the Department of Correction website in the right state I was still unable to find Velma listed among inmates.  I did however find Ogden and Sayachack but the website provided very little information. 


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