Mother, son who hired hitman sentenced to 7 years to life

June Pickard, Francis Noble pleaded guilty in Aug.

EL CAJON, Calif. - A mother and son who tried to hire a hit man to kill his wife for financial and other reasons were both sentenced Friday to seven years to life in state prison.

June Carol Pickard, 57, and her 32-year-old son, Francis Richard Noble, pleaded guilty last month to premeditated attempted murder. The defendants will each have to serve at least seven years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole, according to prosecutor James Romo.

El Cajon police were tipped off Jan. 6 to the murder-for-hire plot by an acquaintance of Pickard's.

The 31-year-old victim, Rita Mansour, had been married to Noble for three years and the couple had a history of domestic violence, Lt. Steve Shakowski said.

Shakowski said he was convinced that if the concerned citizen hadn't come forward, the victim eventually would have been killed.

Mansour attended the sentencing hearing but did not address the judge directly. Instead, a friend read a letter on her behalf expressing "shock and disbelief" that her husband -- who she thought was her soulmate -- wanted her dead.

"I can't stop thinking about it," Mansour wrote, "from the time I wake up from the time I go to sleep. I loved Francis. He didn't love me."

Outside the courtroom, Romo said Noble and his mother "hated" Mansour and wanted to kill her so they could get at what little money she had.

"She had no idea," the prosecutor said of Mansour's knowledge of the plan to kill her. "She had no hint of an idea."

Attorneys for the defendants said their clients have expressed remorse for the plot to kill Mansour.

After police received information about the defendants' plans, an undercover police officer posing as a hit man met with the defendants in the parking lot of Parkway Plaza mall, Shakowski said.

During the encounter, Noble spoke of his mother's wish to have his wife killed and made an initial payment of $100 to the undercover officer for the hit, Shakowski said. Noble said he and his mother stood to gain more than $100,000 if his wife died, according to the lieutenant.

A police officer testified in March that the defendants believed the victim had $80,000 in her bank account.

Police contacted Mansour on Jan. 12 after she left the El Cajon home she shared with her husband and mother-in-law. She was brought to the El Cajon Police Department, where officers told her about the plan to have her killed.

With the victim secured away, the undercover officer told the defendants she had been killed. They were on their way to get another partial payment toward a promised $2,000 when they were arrested, Romo said.

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