When authorities knocked on the door of Kathleen Ludwick’s West Jefferson home last March, she had no idea why they were there.
“My life was turned upside down, forever changed,” Ludwick said of that day.
Unbeknownst to Kathleen, her husband of nearly 20 years had been plotting her murder. Authorities told her to leave her home, change her routine and be on guard.
“I’ve lived every day in fear for almost a year,” she said.
Less than a week before that visit from police, on March 9, 2016, Lowell Ludwick met with an acquaintance at a North Columbus Starbucks to discuss the cost and logistics of having Kathleen killed. What Ludwick didn’t know was he was secretly being recorded.
The meeting wasn’t the first time the two discussed the heinous crime. In February, Ludwick approached the work friend, saying he needed someone to help “get rid of” his wife.
The friend said he could connect Ludwick with a fictitious hit-man, “Crazy Joe,” but instead went to Columbus police, who set up the recording.
During the March exchange, Ludwick says, “I could do it myself, or get a divorce. But I end up with half. Who the (expletive) wants half?” and states that the hit man could “take the rings from her dead hand” as payment.
Prior to approaching the acquaintance, Ludwick had asked a family friend for help finding a hit man to kill Kathleen, according to Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor James Lowe.
Ludwick’s motive was one all too common when it comes to spousal homicide — life insurance money.
A gambling addict, Ludwick blew an inheritance from his father just a few years earlier. He said in court he wanted to “just gamble all day.”
Ludwick was the sole beneficiary of Kathleen’s $300,000 life insurance police, her 401K account and their nearly $500,000 property on Woodland Avenue.
“If not for (the informant), we’d be mourning Kathleen, wondering who did it and (Ludwick) would be rolling in cash,” Lowe told Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Colleen O’Donnell during Ludwick’s sentencing on Wednesday.
Last month, Ludwick took the case to trial and was ultimately found guilty of first-degree felonious conspiracy to commit a murder by the jury, who deliberated for less than two hours.
Prior to sentencing, Kathleen tearfully addressed the judge.
“The man I trusted with my life was trying to take it away… because of his inability to think of anyone but himself,” she said before requesting O’Donnell impose the maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.
Ludwick also spoke, saying that his “sadness is profound” and that he is “disgusted with himself.”
In a letter from Ludwick to his wife, which the prosecutor read aloud, Ludwick wrote “I would not let anything happen to you and I have been so sick over losing you. Addiction made me crazy.”
He also described his desire to hold and hug his intended victim, watch movies with her and go on walks like they used to.
Ludwick’s defense attorney, Daniel Sabol, focused on his client’s 10 years of military service. A sentencing memorandum Sabol filed earlier this week included numerous letters from friends and family defending Ludwick’s character.
All seemed to finger the addiction, not Ludwick’s character, as the driving force behind the crime.
“Somewhere in the last three years, our Wayne was taken away by a gambling addiction. He has hit rock bottom,” Ludwick’s sister Brandi Fields wrote.
“Though not condoning the actions… I do feel that if not in the grip of these vices he would never have taken the action,” family friend Kevin Robbins wrote.
Prior to sentencing, the judge told Ludwick she was most disturbed by the fact Ludwick did not seek treatment for his addiction or divorce.
“Your words and actions were callous, alarming and driven by greed,” she said before sentencing him to eight years behind bars and five years mandatory post-release control.
As a matter of law, Ludwick has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
Reach Erin Thompson at 740-837-4502.