In October 2005, Bob Innes bought the website domain name “rentahitman.com.” It was the dotcom era and he was a business school student in North Carolina trying to advertise website traffic analysis services: the “hit” was a nod to clicks coming in on a client’s website.
“It was simply a play on words,” he says now, when contacted via email for an interview.
Little did he know that come 2021, he would be involved in hundreds of legal cases, handing people to the police for trying to solicit assassin services. This week, one woman was found guilty, after trying to have her husband killed through Innes’ website.
But in 2005, with business far from booming, Innes moved on from his plans for a network analysis business with a catchy name. He graduated; his friends who collaborated with him on the site found full-time jobs.
But Innes held on to the domain name in the hopes that someone might buy it one day.
No one bought the site, and it continued to exist in the background of Innes’ life. Then, in 2010, he returned to its inbox out of curiosity and was stunned to find a client – just not the type he had been looking for.
Innes had received a message from a woman named Helen. She was stranded in Canada, had lost her passport, and wanted three family members in the UK murdered for screwing her out of her father’s inheritance. He didn’t respond.
But she persisted: sending a second email, which included names, addresses and other corroborating information.
Innes felt compelled to act. So he responded, feigning to have the capability to do what was being asked of him.
“Do you still require our assistance? We can place you in contact with a Field Operative,” he replied, stepping into character.
Within hours, Innes was in possession of the legal name, location, and phone number of a woman he thought was capable of serious harm.
“I truly felt that three people’s lives were in jeopardy,” he says.
Innes turned her in, and soon found out from detectives that ‘Helen’ was wanted in the UK on extraditable warrants for “more serious charges”.
It was at this point Innes realized his $9.20 website provided a little more value than he’d initially bargained for: he had just saved the lives of three people.