A Kansas City, Kan., man has pleaded guilty to a failed 2004 mob-style hit on a drug informant in North Lawrence.
Kyle Anthony Crayton, 25, admitted Thursday that he tried to kill 28-year-old Tania Atkins in April 2004, when he crashed a stolen car into her minivan and shot her in both legs before she escaped when his gun jammed.
Crayton said that he was told to 'get rid of' Atkins at the request of Kansas City resident Mark M. "Smooth" McGee, 32, because Atkins was helping drug prosecutors, according to U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren's office.
Atkins, a Lawrence High School graduate, told the Journal-World in an interview last summer that she began selling cocaine after a divorce to feed her four children, then ages 6 through 12.
"I did sell Mary Kay on the side, but that just wasn't enough," she said.
She began setting up undercover drug buys for police after getting caught in summer 2003 with cocaine in the freezer of her home in the 700 block of West 25th Street. She eventually helped build a case against Andre L. "Dre" Ivory, whom she described as a "big man" in the Lawrence and Kansas City drug trade who could get her any kind of drugs she wanted.
Ivory was arrested in March 2004 and charged in federal court with dealing cocaine. Prosecutors allege that as he was in jail awaiting trial, Ivory sought McGee's help to kill Atkins.
Crayton said McGee recruited him about April 10 and that Lawrence resident Kimberly M. Sanders, 27, unsuccessfully tried to set up a meeting between Crayton and Atkins that would have given him a chance to shoot her.
On April 29, Atkins got into her maroon minivan and left her job as a janitor at Astaris Chemical Co. in North Lawrence. As she headed south on Seventh Street toward Locust Street, Crayton crashed a stolen Oldsmobile head-on into Atkins' van, got out and started firing.
A 9 mm slug tore through both of Atkins' legs, but she was able to drive away and flag down police. Crayton then abandoned the stolen car and ran to a waiting getaway driver with an SUV.
Prosecutors said investigators found DNA evidence on a walkie-talkie left in the abandoned car. Lawrence Police also obtained a series of recorded jailhouse telephone conversations between Ivory and his girlfriend.
McGee and three co-defendants - Ivory, his girlfriend, Pamela R. Tyler, and Sanders - are scheduled to stand trial Aug. 8.
Lawrence resident Chaconie "CC" Edwards, alleged to be the getaway driver, pleaded last month to a firearms charge and faces at least 10 years in prison.
Crayton pleaded to one count of attempting to kill a federal witness and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
Sentencing is set for Oct. 3. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for attempting to kill a witness and at least 10 years for the firearms charge.