Killer Instinct? The FBI busts Blues center Mike Danton for allegedly hiring a hit man

April 25, 2004

Mike Danton's future seemed bright last week. The St. Louis
rookie, a fourth-line center, played surprisingly well in a
playoff series against the Sharks, even scoring his first
postseason goal. But off the ice Danton's life was unraveling.
Last Friday morning, 12 hours after his team was eliminated,
Danton, 23, was arrested by FBI agents at the San Jose airport
for his alleged role in a murder-for-hire plot.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in
East St. Louis, Ill., Danton called his friend Katie Wolfmeyer,
19, on April 14 and said a Canadian hit man was on his way to
kill him over a debt. Danton asked Wolfmeyer if she knew anyone
who would murder the stalker for $10,000. Wolfmeyer put Danton in
touch with an unidentified male acquaintance, and in the wee
hours of April 15 Danton, who was with the Blues in San Jose,
called him and instructed him to kill a man who would be at
Danton's Brentwood, Mo., apartment that night and make the murder
look like a botched burglary. Danton said he could keep $3,000 in
cash and valuables in his bedroom safe as a down payment.
Wolfmeyer's acquaintance agreed to the plan, then contacted the
FBI. On Thursday night, while the Blues' season was ending in a
3-1 loss, Wolfmeyer and her acquaintance went to Danton's
apartment, where they were confronted by a man who said he was
Danton's father. (Danton is estranged from his family.) The pair
fled, and Wolfmeyer was arrested.

The unidentified man in Danton's apartment, the target of the
alleged plot, told the FBI that he and Danton had argued two days
earlier over Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol." In an
FBI-monitored call on Friday, Danton began sobbing when the man
asked why Danton had tried to have him killed and said he was
afraid the man was going to leave him. Danton's agent, Dave
Frost, told the Toronto Star that his client is delusional and
suffering from paranoia. He also denied speculation that Danton
was trying to kill a man who threatened to out him as a
homosexual.

Danton is no stranger to controversy. He was suspended twice by
the Devils, who drafted him in 2000, for refusing to report for
minor league assignments. In 2002 he changed his name to Danton
from Jefferson to disassociate himself from his family in
Brampton, Ont. On Sunday, Danton's father, Steve Jefferson, told
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his relationship with his son
ended "all because of David Frost." The agent, who did not
respond to messages left by SI, has been a mentor and father
figure to Danton since 1996, when Danton played for a junior team
in Quinte, Ont., for which Frost was an assistant coach. At one
point Danton and three other Quinte players roomed together at a
hotel with Frost. Before he became an agent, Frost was banned
from coaching by the Ontario Hockey Association and the Metro
Toronto Hockey League for on-and off-ice problems, including a
1997 incident in which he pleaded guilty to assault after
allegedly punching a Quinte player during a game. Several people
have expressed concern at the influence Frost has over players,
and one owner described Danton's relationship with Frost as
"cultlike." (Frost has dismissed that as "crazy.")

Last week Danton's life took its strangest twist when he was
arrested, leaving his teammates stunned. Said Blues center Doug
Weight, "It's beyond shock."

--Stephen Cannella

COLOR PHOTO: ELSA/GETTY IMAGES (DANTON WITH BLUES) DEADLY SCHEME Danton (above, and in 2000 as Jefferson) andWolfmeyer (below) face a conspiracy rap. COLOR PHOTO: DOUG CRAWFORD-BARRIE EXAMINER/CP PHOTO (DANTON ASJEFFERSON) [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP (WOLFMEYER)

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