Jerry McDonald, a 49-year-old Tennessee man, has been arrested in connection with an alleged plot to murder his wife for life insurance money, according to local reports.

Chattanooga police said they were contacted by the 49-year-old’s wife, after she found text messages on his phone where McDonald reportedly urged his mistress to aid in the conspiracy. 

McDonald was taken into custody and booked in a Hamilton County jail on charges of solicitation of murder. 

Police: Jerry McDonald Plotted Murder in Text Messages

According to court documents obtained by The Chattanoogan, Jerry McDonald’s wife — whose name has not been reported — found her husband “passed out drunk.” When she picked up his phone to call in sick on his behalf, she said she found a conversation in which her husband pleaded with another woman to kill her. 

The outlet obtained disturbing transcripts of the conversation.

“Do I need to kill her?” asked 39-year-old Vanessa Nelson, McDonald’s apparent girlfriend. 

“Please kill her, babe, please. I’m begging you,” McDonald allegedly replied. “This b— is worth a million. I’m saying we kill her and I collect a million and we live like the kings and queens we are.”

Police said Jerry McDonald, 49, conspired to kill his wife for insurance money in a series of disturbing text messages.
Police said Jerry McDonald, 49, conspired to kill his wife for insurance money in a series of disturbing text messages. Photo credit: Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office

“We aren’t criminals,” Nelson wrote, according to police. “And we don’t care about money. At least I don’t.”

“I don’t either,” replied McDonald. “But I’m saying we have a way if we choose to. I’m not even joking. All I want is you babe. That’s all I care about.”

After reading her husband’s messages, McDonald’s wife reportedly contacted an off-duty police officer and said she feared for her life. In two years of marriage and 20 years having known him, the unnamed victim said she’d never heard McDonald discuss or even joke about committing murder — but after reading the conversation she felt she didn’t know what he was capable of. 

Jerry McDonald Could Face 30 Years in Prison

A detective told the local newspaper that he believed the conversation amounted to a conspiracy to commit murder. 

“Upon looking at the messages I found Mr. McDonald’s requests to Ms. Nelson to kill Victim 1,” the officer said. “I further found that Mr. McDonald states what financial benefits the two of them would get if Victim 1 was killed.”

According to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office website, McDonald is still in custody and is being held on $75,000 bond. The 49-year-old is due back in court at the end of the month to answer the charges, and it’s not immediately clear if he has retained an attorney. 

In the state of Tennessee, soliciting another individual to commit first degree murder is a class B felony — punishable by a prison sentence between eight and 30 years, as well as up to $25,000 in fines. 

Before Jerry McDonald was arrested for allegedly urging his mistress to kill his wife in text messages, he reportedly worked at Erlanger Lifeforce in Chattanooga.
Before Jerry McDonald was arrested for allegedly urging his mistress to kill his wife in text messages, he reportedly worked at Erlanger Lifeforce in Chattanooga. Photo credit: Shutterstock

It was not immediately clear Tuesday if police intended to file charges against McDonald’s mistress and alleged co-conspirator, Vanessa Nelson.

According to The Chattanoogan, McDonald was employed as a “special operations manager” at Erlanger Lifeforce, a medical airlift service. The newspaper reported Monday that the company scrubbed its website of all references to the 49-year-old after his arrest, and it’s not clear if his employment was terminated.

New Channel 9 reported that McDonald was also a volunteer reserve police officer for the nearby city of Red Bank. A spokesperson for the city told the outlet Sunday that McDonald had been placed on adminstrative leave pending an investigation.