LOP murder for hire case resurrected on TV show | TheUnion.com

LOP murder for hire case resurrected on TV show

In 2003, a murder for hire case stemming from a neighbors' dispute in Lake of the Pines shocked the entire county.

William Weismann ended up pleading no contest to two charges of soliciting to commit murder after he was charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill his next-door neighbor, Tom Wess Jr., and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The sensational case now has made its way to television, with an entire episode, titled "Welcome to Murder Street," airing on Investigation Discovery's six-part series, "Fear Thy Neighbor."

The episode originally aired May 19 and will be on next at 3 p.m. EST Sunday.

According to The Union archives, the case began as a property line dispute after the Weismanns moved into their home in August 2000.

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Weismann said Wess engaged in tactics including smashing car windows, using a blower to disrupt family picnics, posting menacing signs and installing cameras that focused directly into the kitchen of the Weismann home.

Lake of the Pines security police, the association's Environmental Control Committee and the Nevada County Sheriff's Office began to be called to the neighborhood on a regular basis. In September 2002, the court issued restraining orders against both men, barring any contact or harassment. But the conflict didn't stop.

Weismann was arrested after giving $5,000 to an undercover Sacramento County Sheriff's Office deputy posing as a hit man.

"This is absolutely insane that someone would go to this level because of a prescriptive easement," said Wess' wife, Lisa, at the time of Weismann's arrest. "Basically, to be honest, we're still in shock. This is something you watch on television. We're baffled."

Ten years later, the case piqued the interest of the "Fear Thy Neighbors" producers.

"'Fear Thy Neighbor' was interested in stories where neighbors had some sort of friendly contact before any conflict began," said series producer Sarah Zammi. "We wanted to feature ordinary neighbors, in regular neighborhoods, yet people who were driven into extraordinary circumstances because of a conflict with the person/people who lived next door. We sought out situations where this conflict escalated over time to a definite and dramatic conclusion.

The Weismann case was selected "because it met our mandate of exploring a situation of two highly respected individuals and community members, initially civil to each other, finally torn apart by a neighborly conflict," Zammi continued. "We were able to work with law enforcement to fully understand the extent of the conflict and its tragic outcome."

In the episode, former The Union reporter David Mirhadi was extensively interviewed, as was Nevada County Sheriff's Lt. Bill Smethers.

"In my 15 years as a reporter, this probably was the most bizarre story I had ever covered," Mirhadi said by phone from his current home in Idaho.

Taping the show "brought back a lot of memories," he said.

Mirhadi recalled that none of the neighbors wanted to discuss the case and said he snuck into the gated community under false pretenses with photographer John Hart.

"Lisa Wess was at the house, and she invited us in," he said. "We talked for about 15 minutes" before Tom Wess arrived home and ordered them to leave.

Mirhadi said he was contacted by the producers of the show about a year ago, and they flew him up to Toronto for the taping in February.

"They had me on camera way too much," he said, laughing. "I was sweating bullets."

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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