Man paid to have mother's boyfriend killed, Anne Arundel County officials say

An Annapolis man has pled guilty to being paid $3,200 to kill his victim, the boyfriend of the mother of the man who hired him, the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced Wednesday.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

Michael Gibson, 23, entered a guilty plea to first-degree murder and using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in the death of Leslie Saunders, 50.

Gibson was paid by Thomas Smith, 31, to kill Saunders, the boyfriend of his mother, following a verbal argument between Saunders and Smith’s mother. 

On Sunday, March 15, 2020 at approximately 6:23 p.m., Annapolis police officers responded to a call of shots fired in the area of Bens Drive in Annapolis. Upon arrival, they located an adult male on the ground, unresponsive and suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

The victim, identified as Saunders, was pronounced deceased at the scene.

READ MORE: Annapolis 2-alarm fire destroys townhome; firefighter transported for evaluation

During the investigation, detectives learned that an associate of Gibson contacted him requesting to pay him to murder Saunders, who was the longtime boyfriend of Smith’s mother.

Police discovered that the mother and Saunders had a verbal argument that day and she was taken to the hospital by ambulance due to a medical concern shortly thereafter.

Video surveillance showed Gibson first meeting up with Smith in the 1100 block of Madison Street. A short time later, Smith drove Gibson to the area of Marcs Court in Annapolis where the victim was walking in the same community a block away.

Surveillance captured Gibson as he approached Saunders who had walked between two apartment buildings. Gibson shot the victim and then fled the neighborhood where Smith was waiting nearby in his F-150 truck.

READ MORE: Montgomery County extends indoor mask mandate until Feb. 21

Detectives tracked the two men as they fled the area. The investigation ultimately revealed that Smith paid $2,000 to Gibson prior to the murder and then paid him an additional $1,200 in cash after.

Detectives obtained and reviewed video surveillance from the area which captured portions of the crime. The video captured the shooter who was recognized by the detectives as Gibson.

"It’s shocking that a verbal argument prompted Thomas Smith to hire Gibson to kill Mr. Saunders and that Gibson was willing to commit such a heinous crime for money. Not only was this murder cold and calculated, but it now leaves three men’s lives - and their family’s lives - devastated. The defendant had little regard for human life or the community when he tracked the victim down in the neighborhood with the help of Thomas Smith. When he located the victim, he shot him repeatedly," said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. "I am grateful that both of the perpetrators of this senseless crime have been held accountable for a brazen murder that took place in Annapolis. The Bens Drive neighborhood should not have to live in fear that this kind of gun violence will be accepted as common place. I would like to thank the Annapolis Police Department for their work in determining that not only was this a murder, but that it was also a murder for hire."


Smith recently pled guilty to first-degree murder as well and will be sentenced on March 31. Gibson will be sentenced on April 26.