A high school senior accused of trying to pay hit men $260 to kill his adoptive parents had always been a "very good child," his mother said through tears Wednesday.
Jacob A. Jett, 18, allegedly gave the money and three handguns to two men as part of the plot to kill Richard and Robyn Parnell, according to prosecutors.
"He thought they were too strict" and wanted to inherit money, Jackson County prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said.
Jett and a fellow student accused of introducing him to the would-be hit men were charged with second-degree attempted murder and armed criminal action. Jett and Joseph R. Garcia, 17, were being held in lieu of $250,000 cash bonds.
Parnell, 48, said her son was adopted as an infant and that he was their only child. She said she had not slept since the arrests and that her 53-year-old husband was also "not doing so good."
"It came out of nowhere," said Robyn Parnell. "He was a very good child."
At an arraignment for Jett and Garcia on Wednesday afternoon, a judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Their next court appearance is scheduled for March 31.
It was unclear if either teen had a lawyer. Robyn Parnell would not comment about plans for representation, and a woman who answered the phone at the Garcia home hung up.
Jett and Garcia attended Truman High School in Independence, where Garcia was a junior. Jett allegedly contacted Garcia to find out if he knew anyone who "may have been willing to facilitate a murder-for-hire," the prosecutor said.
Garcia introduced Jett to the two would-be hit men at a Kansas City home in January, authorities said. One of the men was later picked up for a parole violation and told police about the alleged scheme on Friday.
Police on Monday contacted the second man, who corroborated the story. Neither of the men hired to kill the Parnells were charged, Kanatzar said, and authorities didn't believe they intended to actually carry out the plot.
"I think they saw it as an easy way to get $260," he said.
He said Jett also gave the men three handguns from Richard Parnell's collection, a parent's ATM card and a PIN number, as well as the security code for the family's home.
The attempted second-degree murder charge carries a prison sentence of 5 to 15 years, and the armed criminal action carries a sentence of 3 years to life in prison, Kanatzar said.